June 16, 2004

Wendell Berry on farming, Jesus, tradition, and corporate tyranny

From an interview with Wendell Berry:

BERGER: Of all your writing, Life is a Miracle is the one that I think is the most brilliant because it calls into question the entire myth of progress.

BERRY: You know, it helps an old man to hear that!

BERGER: There are not enough people who are asking questions about the post-Enlightenment era, and the myth of progress and where it's taking us. Even our contemporary Christian mindset is just built on this myth that the world just keeps getting better and that the past was worse than the present.

BERRY: It gets taken for granted, that's why it's so easy to attack. People are handing out this stuff without thinking about it.

BERGER: How is that myth of progress operating on us as people, and what are the reasons for calling it into question, or subverting it?

BERRY: Well, that's two questions, isn't it? How does it operate on us? It substitutes this infinite advance toward better and better life in the material sense for the old pilgrimage, which you make by effort and grace, to become a better person. And I guess that's the reason you need to subvert it if you can. It takes people's minds off the important things. It becomes, at it's worst, a kind of determinism: All we have to do is just passively go along and things will get better and better, and we'll be happier and happier. That's why we need honest accounting.

I think all the time about the medical industry's emphasis on longevity. It's a substitution of quantity for any idea of completeness or wholeness or any sense of real fulfillment or real worth, so that you prolong life past the time where it's worth living, and then you brag about it. Without any acknowledgment of the possibility that somebody's life might become a burden, or that some things are worse than death.

(Via political theory daily review.)

Posted by Carey at June 16, 2004 09:57 PM

Interestingly, and somewhat related to this post (in terms of the longevity effects caused by advanced medicine), we just read the Cruzan case in my Health policy class with Mayo, and we watched a frontline documentary about it.

It became clear to me that the "miracles" of modern medicine aren't so miraculous when they overly extend what nature intended to end.

Posted by: Jordan at June 17, 2004 04:15 PM