I’m going to take a little time off from writing this week. To be honest, I’m tired and more than a little ready for a break.
So, what we’ll do instead of listening to me for the next few days is hear and discuss quotes from Wendell Berry’s 2015 book, Our Only World: Ten Essays. On these weeks of the U.S. political national conventions, I escape to Berry to find fresh air to breathe. Fitting in neither of the binary categories our system seems to want to impose upon us, Berry is a refreshing. And in the context of the information barrage we’re subjected to every day, here is a quiet, insistent voice of wisdom rising up from the land and local experience.
• • •
There is an always significant difference between knowing and believing. We may know that the earth turns, but we believe, as we say, that the sun rises. We know by evidence, or by trust in people who have examined the evidence in a way that we trust is trustworthy. We may sometimes be persuaded to believe by reason, but within the welter of our experience reason is limited and weak. We believe always by coming, in some sense, to see. We believe in what is apparent, in what we can imagine or “picture” in our minds, in what we feel to be true, in what our hearts tell us, in experience, in stories— above all, perhaps, in stories.
We can, to be sure, see parts and so believe in them. But there has always been a higher seeing that informs us that parts, in themselves, are of no worth. Genesis is right: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The phrase “be alone” is a contradiction in terms. A brain alone is a dead brain. A man alone is a dead man.
We are thus as likely to be wrong in what we know as in what we believe.
From “Paragraphs from a Notebook” (2010)
In Our Only World: Ten Essays