“The Agrarian Life with Wendell Berry.” Bryan Wood and Mike Kline from Back to the Roots Podcast conduct a long interview with Wendell Berry. It’s worth setting aside the time to listen to it carefully.
“Holy Ambivalence.” Brad East writes a long and thoughtful review essay putting Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed in conversation with Jamie Smith’s Awaiting the King. East charts a theological discussion centered on the question “What to do about liberalism?” He categorizes the responses to this question under four basic approaches:
First, retrenchment: liberalism has problems like anything else, but it’s nothing a little more liberalism can’t fix. Second, ambivalence: liberalism has endemic, insoluble problems, but it’s what we’ve got, and the status quo, however bad, is better than any known alternative and thus worth ameliorating in whatever small ways we can. Third, rejection: liberalism is an abject failure, unworthy of being propped up any longer, though admittedly there is no readymade substitute for it. Fourth, replacement: liberalism has reached its end, and there are far more just political forms available if only we would have the courage to open ourselves to radical change (a renewed Christian left, for example, or Catholic integralism).
“As Milk Prices Decline, Worries About Dairy Farmer Suicides Rise.” Tovia Smith discusses the difficulties Massachusetts dairy farmers face. Yet, as one farmer tells her, “‘This isn’t a job. It’s a way of life, and what I was put on this planet to do.’”
This month, Plough is publishing Water at the Roots: Poems and Insights of a Visionary Farmer by Philip Britts, a farmer and pastor whose pacifist convictions led him to join the Bruderhof community. Eventually, World War II caused the community to relocate from England to Paraguay. For more on Britts’s life and work, read Gracy Olmstead’s review or Jake Meador’s.
This obituary for Alasdair Macleod relates a remarkable life rooted in a threatened Scottish fishing community.
“Joy’s Mysteries.” James Matthew Wilson reviews Christian Wiman’s anthology of poetry about joy. He judges it a mixed success, but these poems lead Wilson into thoughtful meditations on what exactly joy is:
Joy remains a problem in our experience and in our poetry, I have proposed, and in at least three ways. First of all, given the “ontology of death” that governs the unreflective philosophy of our age, joy should not exist, but it does. Second, we have difficulty representing it in a compelling way; there are simply more adequate words for the hard slap of pain and suffering, and so, to speak of joy often feels unreal. Third, and finally, joy takes hold of us, not we it, and, while our lives depend on understanding its deliverances accurately, if not adequately, most of the time our language reduces or misinterprets the depths of joy rather than conveying its abiding fullness and mystery.