We’ve Lost the Plot.” Megan Garber details the consequences of blurring the lines between reality and entertainment: “Each invitation to be entertained reinforces an impulse: to seek diversion whenever possible, to avoid tedium at all costs, to privilege the dramatized version of events over the actual one. To live in the metaverse is to expect that life should play out as it does on our screens. And the stakes are anything but trivial.”

The Kennan Canon, Vermont Edition.” Bill Kauffman takes the occasion of a new biography to offer a retrospective on the “brilliant, prescient, outrageously snobbish, and often unlikable” George F. Kennan: “In Kennan’s valedictory, Around the Cragged Hill (1993), he had come out as a full-fledged decentralist, musing that the hypertrophied United States should fission into “a dozen constituent republics” to which most of Washington’s current responsibilities would devolve. In this way, we might resist giantism, uniformity, and depersonalizing bureaucracy while reinvigorating the regions that are America’s heart and soul. No one in authority listened to him. He was not speaking their amoral language of power.”

News from The Berry Center.” The spring issue of the Berry Center journal has several worthy essays. Wendell Berry’s letter to the editor of the New York Review of Books doesn’t pull any punches: “The truth is that when this nation chose to eliminate four million farmers (with their families, hired help, buildings, and boundaries) on the advice of the colleges of agriculture, the agricultural bureaucracy, and the agribusiness corporations, it committed a sort of cultural genocide. It destroyed, that is, a necessary mosaic of local agrarian cultures, which made farmers of farmers’ children by teaching them how to farm in their native places. Imperfect as it often was, this was an asset of immeasurable economic worth, easily wiped out, unimaginably difficult to restore. I don’t believe that the scientists of outer space could define the problem, let alone solve it.”

A Renaissance from Below.” Ted Hadzi-Antich finds evidence of the insatiable human desire to wrestle with life’s fundamental questions: “despite the dire reports of the state of the humanities, there is a humanistic revival in higher education underway—it’s just happening where few commentators think to look.”

A Life of Splendid Uselessness is a Life Well Lived.” In a similar vein, Joseph Keegin argues that “the pursuit of creative and intellectual activities for their own sake results in an abundance of unpredictable, often unexpected rewards. Great art and thought have always been motivated by something other than mere moneymaking, even if moneymaking happened somewhere along the way.”

Can Beauty Save the World?” Makoto Fujimura and Dana Gioia had a rich conversation in Nashville this week on pain, brokenness, and beauty.

Hannah Coulter, the Green Lady, and Me.” Emily G. Wenneborg wrestles with when rootedness might become an idol. The ways the essay is framed obscure the complexity of Berry’s own writings about place—he himself would absolutely agree with her claim that “not all who wander are boomers” (and its corollary, that not all who remain are stickers)—but her reflections on this tension bear the marks of hard-won wisdom: “For my parents, repeatedly moving across the world meant learning to recognize what truly matters in a worshipping community, beyond our own cultural tastes and habits. For me, having grown up with no single home, remaining in one place for nearly a decade has meant learning to let myself become part of a community larger than myself, with no impending move to act as an escape from the demands of living together, the need for conflict resolution, or the journey toward mutual vulnerability.”

Showing Up for Your Neighborhood.” Kate Lucky tries to articulate the community that she and her husband cultivate when they play music at their farmers’ market: “Community exists here, but not the kind that forms out of blood, affinity, or knowledge. The farmer’s market isn’t a bowling league, a civic organization, or a church, the kinds of clubs and congregations a particular political scientist mourned the loss of more than two decades ago. The farmer’s market is not built on shared beliefs or shared stories or shared pastimes, but very simple commonalities. We all appreciate beauty and food and fresh air. We live in the same region.”

The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature.” Sarah Hart ponders the shared aspirations pursued via good literature and good math: “By seeing mathematics and literature as part of the same quest — to understand the world and our place in it — we can add to our experience of both, and bring whole new layers of enjoyment to our favorite writing.” (Recommended by Tom Bilbro.)

The Case for Reactionary Feminism.” Alexandra DeSanctis praises Mary Harrington’s new book for its clarity and comprehensive vision: “Harrington argues … modern feminism is inextricably interwoven with the progressive vision of what it means to be human. These two belief systems share a series of foundational false beliefs: that human beings have no fixed nature, that to be human is to be infinitely malleable, and that we can and perhaps even must seek to transcend the limits of the human body through ever more powerful technology.”

A Fire Killed 18,000 Cows in Texas. It’s a Horrifyingly Normal Disaster.” Marina Bolotnikova, Kenny Torrella, and Julieta Cardenas report on the pattern of accidents endemic to factory farming: “For America’s big agricultural states, including Texas — where everything’s bigger — the Dimmitt tragedy should be a wakeup call about the risks of a food system increasingly dependent on super-sized factory farms.”

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture