Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jayber Crow

I have been re-reading an author whose non-fiction I read quite frequently in college. I recently started reading some of Wendell Berry's fiction. I have found his commentary on human existence certainly reflective, and often quite fitting. Samples of Berry's writing, from his novel Jayber Crow are reproduced below. - Sarah Angell

I have got to the age now where I can see how short a time we have to be here. And when I think about it, it can seem strange beyond telling that this particular bunch of us should be here on this little patch of ground in this little patch of time, and I can think of the other times and places I might have lived, the other kinds of man I might have been. But there is something else. There are moments when the heart is generous and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things. (p. 210)

The visions of the mind have a debt to reality that it is hard to get the mind to pay when it is under the influence of its visions. (p. 195)

She had come into her beauty. This was not the beauty of her youth and freshness, of which she had had a plenty. The beauty that I am speaking of now was that of a woman who has come into knowledge and into strength and who, knowing her hardships, trusts her strength and goes about her work even with a kind of happiness, serene somehow, and secure. It was the beauty she would always have. (p. 191)

He was all show, and he had the conviction, as such people do, that show is the same as substance. (p. 177)

What I liked least about the service itself was the prayers; what I liked far better was the singing. Not all of the hymns could move me. I never liked "Onward, Christian Soldiers" or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Jesus' military career has never compelled my belief. (p. 162)

[The preachers] learned to have a very high opinion of God and a very low opinion of His works - although they could tell you that this world had been made by God Himself. What they didn't see was that the world was beautiful, and that some of the greatest beauties are the briefest. They had imagined the church, which is an organization, but not the world, which is an order and a mystery. To them, the church did not exist in the world where people live and move and have their being, but rather in the world where they fear death and Hell, which is not much of a world. (p. 160)

Everything bad was laid on the body, and everything good was credited to the soul. It scared me a little when I realized that I saw it the other way around. If the soul and body really were divided, then it seemed to me that all the worst sins - hatred and anger and self-righteousness and even greed and lust - came from the soul. But these preachers I'm talking about thought that the soul could do no wrong, but always had its face washed and its pants on and was in agony over having to associate with the flesh and the world. And yet these same people believed in the resurrection of the body. (p. 49)