Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wendell Berry: a path and a road

Wendell Berry (born August 5, 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky)  is an American man of letters, academic, a cultural and an economic critic, and farmer.  He is a prolific author of novels, short stories, poems, and essays.  He is also an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, a recipient of  The National Humanities Medal, and the Jefferson Lecturer for 2012.  (This information comes from the Wikipedia entry on Wendell Berry)

"The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one.  A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place.  It is a sort of ritual of familiarity.  As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape.  It is not destructive.  It is the perfect adaptation,  through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around.  A road, on the other hand, even the most primitive road, embodies a resistance against the landscape.  Its reason is not simply the necessity for movement, but haste.  Its wish is to avoid contact with the landscape; it seeks so far as possible go go over the country, rather than through it; its aspiration, as we see clearly in the example of our modern freeways, is to be a bridge;  its tendency is to translate place into space in order to traverse it with the least effort.  It is destructive, seeking to removal or destroy all obstacles in its way.  The primitive road advanced by the destruction of the forest; modern roads advance by the destruction of topography."
--  Wendell Berry --
from "A Native Hill"
The quotation is included in Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
Edited by Gary Schmidt and Susan Felch

I wonder if my life has been a path or a road.  If it's been a path in places, it's probably more the result of laziness than of reasoned choice.

I would like to meet someone sometime who has knowingly chosen a path and not a road.

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