Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Enlightening Conversation

Two 79 year-old wise gents got together recently for a conversation that would be worthy of forty minutes of your life to view. Bill Moyers and Wendell Berry's conversation was recorded and broadcast on Moyers and Company this weekend and is now available here for viewing online.

This one-on-one conversation was taped at Kentucky’s St. Catharine College during a two-day conference celebrating Wendell Berry’s life and ideas and marking the 35th anniversary of the publication of his landmark book, The Unsettling of America.

Front Cover

When the camera pans the audience, viewers see many leading thinkers in the audience including Bill McKibben, Wes Jackson, Vandana Shiva, etc. some of whom offer some thoughts in what can also be considered a profile of Berry's life as a farmer and author. Moyers also moves Berry to read some of his poetry. Berry does not make many presentations and has rarely been on television. I heard him speak once when my wife, Ellen and I, drove to Grand Rapids in April 2000 to hear him speak, essentially to read, a talk prepared in honor of a friend who had recently passed.

Ellen and I have both always found Berry to be the most efficient writer we've ever read, no matter if it's his poetry, essays, short stories or novels. Moyers mentions that the total number of books authored is more than 40 and rarely does someone write in so broadly and effectively in so many forms. But, Berry's writing is so effective, no word added superfluously, each word chosen for optimal clarity and precision that to listen to him read, as we did in Grand Rapids, is harder than reading him, where you can pause and debrief all the meaning packed into a sentence.

Viewing this broadcast last night we were both captivated by the conversation, by the wisdom, articulateness, the cadence, and the passion/compassion he evoked. Of course, it's the content that is truly worthy of ingesting. Hopefully you'll find a time to appreciate this. And of course there are the 40+ books, if you haven't read any, you may want to pick up to feed your soul and imagination of a better world that could be possible. Berry is hopeful despite the crises facing us, thus the title of the broadcast - Wendell Berry on His Hopes for Humanity.