Wendell Berry, for some of us, is the sanest voice in America. A teacher, a poet, and just as importantly a farmer, his thoughtful contributions to our contemporary culture spring deep -- deeper than just from the neck up. A staunch ecologist, he withdrew his literary papers from the University of Kentucky where he had taught, when they received millions of dollars from the coal industry -- the very industry that was blowing up the mountaintops where his neighbors lived. In his down-to-earth and undeniably relevant poetry, there’s challenge and joy.
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.
Berry grew up in a family of farmers going back many generations. When asked why a city dweller should care about farming and the land, he answers, “Eating is an agricultural act”. When considering how our culture has imperiled ourselves and everything else, it is essential to avoid false comforts. It is also necessary to guard against despair.
Starting in October 2016, we are offering weekly gatherings in New Orleans where we study Wendell Berry's words -- free of charge. His voice will be our guide to a deeper understanding of the predicament we’re in. And, just as importantly, we'll encourage one another along the steps we must take, from thinking to deciding to doing.
From mid-October to mid-December, meet with Richard and Guy every Tuesday night at 7 at Guy's Mid-City apartment for an in-depth, soulful discussion of Wendell Berry's latest publication -- OUR ONLY WORLD (2015). Obtain your own copy of the book -- or get one from us for $6 while our supplies last.
This Tuesday night class requires a willingness to commit for the whole course. See full details concerning the OUR ONLY WORLD book discussion, go back to the homepage and then click on the October 25 meetup page. You can RSVP there if/when you are ready. Space IS limited.
We'll supplement this Fall course with a few other stand-alone activities, especially on weekends. Open to all Members, free of charge. And also open to all Members, we'll definitely have a field trip or two -- when the weather cools down.
We'll soon plan another reading course for the Spring. Feel free to share which night would work best for you, which text you might be particularly interested in reading as a group. Tell your friends about our Wendell Berry group!
The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” (from Letters to a Young Poet, 1903)
* * * * *
LIVING THE QUESTIONS is primarily a study group -- meaning that Members are expected to do some reading in preparation for most meetings. (You may not just participate in those activities involving no readings.) We view reading as a privileged path to personal reflection on matters of ultimate concerns such as morality, religion, irreligion -- and we value civil, safe, spirited discussions as a way to exchange our individual insights and questions.
We are not aiming to become a large group as this is not for everybody. So please don't sign up if you already know you won't find the time, energy, money to do the reading and meet, say, at least once every six weeks.
To tackle those overreaching (overwhelming?) concerns about the meaning of life, our place and role in the universe -- and the block we live on, the range of adequate responses to unjustice near and far, our relationship to what transcends our humanness, our duty to tolerate beliefs and unbeliefs or others, etc. -- this group will take turns looking at various clusters of interest.
[Below are listed over a dozen clusters. Once you are an established Member of this group, feel free to recommend new clusters of study reflecting your own particular interests.]
Cluster 1 : SUNDAY MORNING READING & MEDITATION IN A CIRCLE
We come prepared having read (and maybe reread) during the previous week a short piece of prose or poetry from the heart. We meet outdoors if possible (like the Sculpture Garden in City Park). Sitting in a circle. Comfortable with silences.
Cluster 2 : BEYOND THE NEW ATHEISM AND THE DEATH OF GOD MOVEMENTS
(New Atheism being the name given to the ideas promoted by a collection of modern atheist writers who have advocated the view that "religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises".) As a starter, we'll focus on writers who seek to honor both claims and concerns of religion and irreligion -- such as Alain de Botton's Religion for Atheists, Andre' Comte-Sponville's Little Book of Atheist Spirituality, Bruce Sheiman's An Atheist Defends Religion.
Cluster 3: IRRELIGION
Irreligion is a more dispassionate term than atheism. We'll look at questions we -- and scholars -- have around the rise (and decline?) of secularization.
Cluster 4 : MYTHOLOGY: the writings of Joseph Campbell and others
Only through an understanding of mythology -- the "prehistory" out of which our more modern religions and philosophical systems including science and atheism come from -- can we have a proper perspective on our present questions and practices regarding religiosity and secularity. Reading (or listening to recordings of) Joe Campbell's lectures is a lot of FUN!
Cluster 5 : ART AND SPIRITUALITY
A look at the connection between artistic creativity and spiritual practices. Has the contemporary artist taken the place of the ancient prophet -- revealing empowerment of transcendence over alienation and disbelief, speaking truth to power? We'll start with a quick look at the study of reknown sociologist Robert Wuthnow -- Creative Spirituality: The Way of the Artist.
Cluster 6 : WORKS AND TIMES OF DISTINGUISHED RELIGIONISTS
We'll read select contemporary authors -- from all religious traditions -- who seem to have a special gift to encapsulate and share the ultimate questions of human existence. Possible candidates are Karen Armstrong, Parker K. Palmer, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chondron, Sharon Salzberg, Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Jacob Needleman, Michael Lerner, Jim Wallis, Walter Brueggemann, Frederick Buechner, Henri Nouwen.
Cluster 7 : SPIRITUALLY SIGNIFICANT SHORT STORIES AND FILMS
The view here is that, rather than holding theological or philosophical discourses about the ultimate nature of (human) reality, maybe it is better and truer to ... tell stories. (The great majority of them will NOT involved any supernatural element -- while still conveying a sense of mystery.)
Cluster 8 : PHILOSOPHY/THEOLOGY CAFE'
Though we might not discuss head-on questions such has "Does God exist?", "Is there an afterlife?", we'll occasionally gather and muse around more tangential concerns death, the divine or lack thereof, enchantment of the world, " What is it that the word God stands/used to stand for?", etc.
Cluster 9 : RELIGIOUS LITERACY & SURVEY OF WORLD RELIGIONS
How illiterate are we on matters of religion and does it matter? This will be an opportunity to learn more about folks near and far live their faiths.
Cluster 10: JUSTICE/ethics/leading lives that matter
Cluster 11: RADICALNESS OF GOD AND NORMALCY OF CIVILIZATION
revolutionary , jesus. not even only the child, widow, poor but also all the oppressed. liberation!! sojo
Cluster 12: THE HISTORICAL JESUS
Cluster 13: FORUM FOR LIBERAL/PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY
Cluster 14: Jesus seminar and Sea of Faith/Don Cupitt
Cluster 15: "Going to church"
Cluster 16: EASTERN THINKING American buddhism, new age phenomenon
Cluster 17: DISCUSSION OF SELECT PERIODICALS/SELECT ARTICLES
Cluster 18: (you tell me, you recommend something)
NOTE: Other meetup groups, also sponsored by the Convivium, touch on interests close to those covered here. Especially recommended are: