By Jake Hall
published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 7/2/2015
That is quite a title, right? I feel like I have read too many manifestos as of late. So, I will add one more to the mix. Wendell Berry is an American novelist, poet, activist, and cultural critic. I think the most important thing Berry is though is a farmer. Maybe we can learn something from farmer poets about abiding the season in which we live. The poem you will find below reminds me to do two things: practice resurrection and plant sequoias. The Psalms remind me that this is God’s work to which we are called.
A manifesto of another sort imagines God as the farmer who tends the earth. Psalm 65 reads: “You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.”
Ellen Davis writes, “Psalm 65 shows us what that divinely nurtured goodness looks like eons later in one place, in and around Jerusalem, the psalmist’s home. This farmer-poet, as I imagine her or him, writes a verbal icon of God the maker of heaven and earth, driving home at the end of a long hot day in the fields, the wagon so loaded that the grain is falling over the sides and God’s wagon tracks “drip richness,” as the psalmist says. Now enter into this icon, she writes. Just sit here beside God in the wagon for a few moments and look around you. With your eyes closed, but the eyes of your heart enlightened, experience the world as God does.”
We tend to be long-sighted when it comes to resurrection and shortsighted when it comes to investing in the future. What would your life be like if you realized that resurrection is more than just a future state, but a regenerative space in which God now works? What kind of hope must you hold in what God may do in the future to begin to plant sequoias? Consider God the farmer and the cry from the field in the Psalm, and the poem from the mad farmer. Practice resurrection, plant sequoias and be blessed.
Manifesto by Wendell Berry
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.