Wendell Berry is a farmer, lay theologian, essayist, environmentalist, and poet from Kentucky; for years I have turned to Berry’s writing while trying to understand the world around me, and in the last couple of weeks, as the nation seems to become unhinged, I’ve found myself reflecting on what probably is Berry’s shortest published poem, “The Mad Farmer’s Love Song”, which, in its entirety, is:
O when the world’s at peace
and every man is free
then will I go down unto my love.
O and I may go down
several times before that.
I am inspired by that poem to work for freedom and peace without becoming disconnected from those I love. The poem also reminds me to tend to that which brings me joy even while carrying the weight of a world marked by oppressive violence. After all, no amount of political chicanery or geopolitical discord causes us to loose our humanity, and as humans we need to find beauty, experience joy and tend to relationships.
In times of civic upheaval, when activist voices of compassion are needed, those who rise up with expressions of creative resistance must remain strong. Spirits must be nurtured. Souls must be fortified.
My prayer for those active in resisting the ascendant American realpolitik is this: “may God fill their lives with joy. May they love and be loved. May their souls be sustained by beauty. May their minds be quickened with wonder. And being thus fortified, may they be strong to stand for Justice and freedom and peace.”
So, dearly beloved, raise hell. Go out into the streets, stand strong in the airports. Tweet like crazy, post till your fingers are numb. Give generously of your time and your treasure. But don’t forget to eat your dessert. Listen to beautiful music, go buy a pair of cow girl boots, read poetry, visit a museum, get lost in a novel, and, for heaven’s sake, go down unto your love, whomever you happen to love. Share an affectionate embrace. Have a meal with friends. Call someone with whom you haven’t spoken in a while. Laugh. Dance.
In these strange and troubled times we need all the help we can get.