The dark night of the soil: An agrarian approach to mystical life

Book Section

In "The Long-Legged House" (1969), Wendell Berry wrote that as a writer his struggle has not been to find a subject but rather to know what to do with the subject he has been entrusted with from the beginning. The subject he was referring to was Henry County, Kentucky, the region of his birth: "I was so intricately dependent on this place that I did not begin in any meaningful sense to be a writer until I began to see the place clearly and for what it was." Seeing a place clearly, Berry notes, is "an enormous labor," one that begins with the realization that we belong to a place rather than the other way around. To know that we are not the owners or possessors of the world amounts to a "startling reversal of our ordinary sense of things" and culminates, at least for Berry, in what became his governing ambition: "to be altogether at home here." The ambition to allow oneself to be entirely governed by a place, by one's belonging to thrushes and herons-this aspiration being the briefest and clearest characterization of "agrarianism"-is "a spiritual ambition, like goodness." While other creatures instinctually live in place, human beings must make the choice-informed by intelligence, propriety, and virtue-to be in place: "It is an ambition I cannot hope to succeed in wholly, but I have come to believe that it is the most worthy of all". Copyright © 2009 by The University Press of Kentucky All rights reserved.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wirzba, N

Published Date

  • December 1, 2009

Book Title

  • Wendell Berry and Religion: Heaven's Earthly Life

Start / End Page

  • 148 - 169

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780813125558

Citation Source

  • Scopus