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Sunday, December 4, 2011

An Afternoon with Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson

I just went to one of the first event's of Austin's Eat Drink Local Week, An Afternoon with Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson. It was billed as an unrehearsed, earnest conversation between two of the most influential architects of the sustainable food movement, and that it was, splashed with some equally unscripted humor between the two long-time friends and moderator, Marla Camp. The laughs began when Wendell Berry didn't know where his microphone was because he was sitting on it, and they continued with asides like Wes Jackson recalling the first time he gave Wendell one of his essays to critique. Wes said it was though "Wendell had slit his wrists and bled on it, it was so marked up". I'm convinced that its because they have incredible senses of humor that they're able to address the greatest issues of humanity with steadfast hope and unblinking clarity. Here are some of the quotes that resonated with me from this afternoon's conversation.

"If you are only taking on problems that can be solved within your lifetime, you're not thinking long-term enough." - Wes Jackson. This made me think of how important it is to foster relationships between generations so that we can successively address critical issues far into the future.

"The individuals who bring about positive change in our society are those who simply see something that needs to be done and do it. They don't wait for permission or a grant from the government. They are almost never wealthy or powerful, but they find a way to do what's right." - Wendell Berry. Amen!

"We need people who will advance ideas that increase our imagination about possibilities, knowing they'll be defeated in the short run, because the idea once it's out there will never be completed defeated, and if it's a good idea it will eventually take root... But let's just focus on this planet for now; don't worry about getting to Mars. I promise you, this planet is zipping through the universe at a pretty good clip, so if we just hang on we'll get wherever a rocket ship would have taken us." - Wes Jackson. A good example of how he segues from a profound proclamation into neighborly humor.

"The carbon in our bodies has cycled through a supernova twice at least... Developing this kind of profound awareness and appreciation of our origins starts with going outside and getting reacquainted with nature." - Wes Jackson. This gave me goosebumps.

These two great thinkers gave me plenty to think about. They also inspired me to add yet more books to my ever-growing reading list.
Has anyone read these? Or have you read other books about nature, love, discovery, etc. that you would recommend?

Ever curious and appreciative,


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