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  • Writer's pictureGreg Dover

Curations: Manifesto

One of my favorite poets (whose work will show up here regularly, I'm sure) is Wendell Berry. As a writer and a farmer, many of his themes and images are drawn in the natural world. I especially like his poem, "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front," shared below with some emphasized lines that are especially meaningful for me. Which lines or phrases stand out to you, and why?

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,

vacation with pay. Want more

of everything ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more. Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute. Love the Lord.

Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace

the flag. Hope to live in that free

republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot

understand. Praise ignorance, for what man

has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus

that will build under the trees

every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear

close, and hear the faint chattering

of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

So long as women do not go cheap

for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy

a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep

of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.

Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head

in her lap. Swear allegiance

to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos

can predict the motions of your mind,

lose it. Leave it as a sign

to mark the false trail, the way

you didn’t go. Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection.

I find myself drawn back to this poem and it's themes of death and life, dying and resurrection, as well as the way it contrasts our society and culture to the natural world. It reminds me of the parables of Jesus, often rooted in the natural world or agriculture, which challenged the prevailing wisdom of the day.

  • How does the rhythm and reality of the natural world challenge our ideas of "success"? Of what is "reasonable" or "logical"?

  • What are the questions you would ask that have no answers?

  • What could you do every day that doesn't compute, but that can bring new life to yourself or others? How might you practice resurrection?

I would love to hear your reflections and reactions to this poem (even if you don't like it!). Comment here or reach out with your thoughts!


Wendell Berry near his home in Henry County, KY

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