BILL MOYERS: When did you know you were free? And I ask that because of the poem you wrote, “The Peace of Wild Things.”
WENDELL BERRY: You’re free when you realize that you’re willing to go to the length that’s necessary.
BILL MOYERS: Then read your own poem.
WENDELL BERRY: This….this was a long time ago. “The Peace of Wild Things.”
When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world and am free.
BILL MOYERS: The grace of the world, take that a little further for me.
WENDELL BERRY: I meant it in the religious sense. The people of, people of religious faith know that the world is, is maintained every day by the same force that created it. It’s an article of my faith and belief, that all creatures live by breathing God’s breath and participating in his spirit. And this means that the whole thing is holy. The whole shooting match. There are no sacred and unsacred places, there are only sacred and desecrated places. So finally I see those gouges in the surface mine country as desecrations, not just as land abuse. Not just as…as human oppression. But as desecration. As blasphemy.
BILL MOYERS: Let me read you this. “No amount…” This is you. “No amount of fiddling with capitalism to regulate and humanize it … can for long disguise its failure” to conserve the wealth and health of nature. “Eroded, wasted, or degraded soils; damaged or destroyed ecosystems; extinction of biodiversity, species; whole landscapes defaced, gouged, flooded, or blown up … thoughtless squandering of fossil fuels and fossil waters, of mineable minerals and ores, natural health and beauty replaced by a heartless and sickening ugliness. Perhaps its greatest success is an astounding increase in the destructiveness and therefore the profitability of war.” That’s as powerful an indictment of the consequences of runaway capitalism as I’ve ever read and surely if that’s happening as we know it is, it takes more than reverence, and it takes more than words to try to reverse it. What do you say to those people who say Wendell, please tell me what I can do?
WENDELL BERRY: All right. Well, you’ve put me in the place I’m always winding up in and…that is to say well we’ve acknowledged that the problems are big, now where’s the big solution? When you ask the question what is the big answer, then you’re implying that we can impose the answer. But that’s the problem we’re in to start with, we’ve tried to impose the answers. The answers will come not from walking up to your farm and saying this is what I want and this is what I expect from you. You walk up and you say what do you need. And you commit yourself to say all right, I’m not going to do any extensive damage here until I know what it is that you are asking of me. And this can’t be hurried. This is the dreadful situation that young people are in. I think of them and I say well, the situation you’re in now is a situation that’s going to call for a lot of patience. And to be patient in an emergency is a terrible trial.