Complicity and Hope in Wendell Berry’s Membership.” Next February, we’ll be hosting a conference here at Grove City College to reflect on the writings of Wendell Berry. Andrew Peterson will give a keynote address and a concert, and it should be a rich weekend of sharing ideas and renewing friendships.

The Sadness of the Creatures.” Peter Mommsen introduces the new issue of Plough with a superb essay on rightly interpreting the book of nature: “Our daily lives have become ever more urbanized and screen-bound; only 4 percent of Europeans and 2 percent of Americans are full-time farmers. Yet where connection grows thin, the significance of what sets us apart from the rest of nature slips from sight as well. Many moderns are unsure of what difference, if any, marks us out from other living beings on our planet, and of what our place in the natural world ought to be. What can nature itself tell us about how to live within it?”

Regenerative Beef Gets a Boost from California Universities.” Naoki Nitta details how the University of California system’s commitment to buy beef raised through regenerative farming methods can be a boon to farmers: “Increasing herds is a risky investment—‘it takes three years to raise one of these animals’ . . .—so clear market forecasts are imperative. . . . For smaller-scale operations in particular, committed relationships all along the supply chain are essential to staying afloat.”

Four Lessons for a Fragile America.” Seth D. Kaplan considers how Jewish place-based communities model one response to the alienation of contemporary life: “Today, physical landscapes are designed for vehicles rather than relationships, and many neighbors have nothing in common with each other besides geography. Our smartphones and other devices make us feel that we inhabit a digital space—a space that makes promises about belonging that it cannot keep. The result of all these changes is predictable: We have endless choices, and yet feel alienated from our surroundings because we do not belong anywhere and feel powerless to do anything about our circumstances.” (Recommended by Adam Smith.)

Dust to Dust.” Helen Rouner recounts how a shared affection for Auden led to a chance—or providential—friendship with a nun, and she considers the ashy hope that Auden’s mature art offers: “Through recollection, and through art, Auden recovers the dead much as he recovers form: namely, with good humor and a desire for human connection but also with the recognition that some essential loss cannot be reversed.”

Sorting the Self.” Christopher Yates probes what is at stake in the shift from a focus on character to a focus on personality: “the self has never been more securely an object of classification than it is today, thanks to the century-long ascendence of behavioral analysis and scientific psychology, sociometry, taxonomic personology, and personality theory. . . . How did we come to submit to this belief in self-typologies? And what does that tell us about ourselves?”

The Surging Growth of K-12 Classical Education.” Keri D. Ingraham reports on the continued growth of classical education: “Time will tell how strong the classical surge is, but one thing is certain — parents want alternative school options beyond traditional district public schools for their children, and record numbers are selecting classical education.”

On the Front Porch.” Tony Pipa and Brent Orrell are hosting a series of conversations about “the unique challenges and opportunities facing rural America.” Economist Carol Graham is up next to discuss her research on hope, and recordings of previous conversations are also available.

Are Rural White People The Problem?” Nathan J. Robinson might align with some of the political positions held by Tom Schaller and Paul Waldman, but he finds their new book White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy woefully misguided: “Let’s get constructive here, rather than just reaching the self-satisfied (and wrong) conclusion that our most simplistic stereotypes are all true.” Any analysis that fixates on some group of people—whether white rural residents, white “Christian nationalists,” or (to flip the partisan tables) urban elites—as a threat to be ostracized or even eliminated will tend to stoke rage and complacency in the choir it preaches to and accomplish little else. Alan Jacobs’s analysis of our tendency to think against a “repugnant cultural other” in his book How to Think is quite good on this.

And It Was Good.” Philip Bunn reviews Marilynne Robinson’s Reading Genesis: “Genesis becomes, in her treatment, a means of grappling with the continued reality of the image of God in man and the continued acknowledgement that life on this earth brings hardship, but a hardship of a productive and creative kind.”

The Hungry Ones.” In addition to his thoughtful response to George Monboit here at FPR on Friday, Chris Smaje has been articulating some of their core differences in a series of posts at his website this week. The other responses are here.

Squashing Lantern Flies isn’t Enough. Here’s How to Kill Them.” With apologies to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Dino Grandoni suggests it’s time for the tree of heaven to go: “Spotted lantern flies eat almost any plants, but their favorite is one called the tree of heaven, a deceptively named broad-leaved plant. The tree is an invasive species also from Asia that grows rapidly and produces pungent chemicals that discourage the growth of other plants. Johnson and her colleagues found that birds often avoided lantern flies on trees of heaven.” Apparently, eating this tree gives the invasive and damaging pests a bitter taste, but when they feed on other plants, birds don’t mind them.

Intellectual Friendship: Why It Matters.” Jamie Boulding sings the praises of intellectual friendship: “intellectual friendship is central to being human because it means sharing our lives and our loves with our friends, as well as sharing in the highest truths.”

Innovation and Infinite Desire.” Jason Peters doesn’t think we can innovate our way out of scarcity: “It is a fantasy of the industrial episode—that brief blip in human history that began with the Industrial Revolution but is now showing signs of congestive heart failure, complete with the attendant edema below the knees—that infinite desires can be satisfied indefinitely in a finite space.”

The Urge to Localism.” Jeff Polet articulates the myriad goods of localism: “The best possible responses to anonymity, the loss of liberty, centralization, the corruption of symbols, the coarsening of culture, and the loss of meaning reside in a return to localism.”

In Defense of Humanity.” Michael Warren Davis defends, well, being nice: “does anyone think that we as a society suffer from a glut of amiability?” (Recommended by Joe Gerber.)

Porch Sittin’.” Brian Miller recounts an afternoon coffee ritual.

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture


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