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"As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it."

prcover_4.jpgWendell Berry, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

It's hard to extricate just one part of this poem and hold it out, but I love this line. It speaks to the independent spirit, the life of authenticity, the hopeful anarchism that I aspire to.

The poem ends with the two words, "Practice resurrection," which is a challenge to me and any who follow Christ and it is tied in with this kind of ornery spirit that Berry talks about throughout this poem. Resurrection, after all, is an ultimately defiant act. It is telling the "generals and politicos" that you can kill my body, but even in death I can defy you. It is present when Christ tells Pilate that he has no power over him, even when he stands bound before him.

This ornery spirituality is a reminder for me not to get too comfortable with the status quo, not to get too chumy with the powers that be, because ultimately the status quo will change and the powers will fail.

40 for 40, #11

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 millenium. 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.
Practice resurrection.


Just curious, Lawrence--what, for you, is an authentic life? I've heard this phrase in various contexts, and it seems kind of nebulous to me. What would an inauthentic life be?


Oh, and just from experience...pretty much anything can disturb the sleep of a woman on the verge of giving birth...And as for what can satisfy those of us satisfied to bear a child....a maid, a weekend without anyone in the house...but we make do with poo diapers, petrified Cheerios and laundry in all its permutations--we can be satisfied with that.

Hey, Leah,

I believe authenticity comes from consciousness of one's decisions and one's actions. Children, I find, are almost always authentic because they have not learned yet to veil their decisions from themselves. Authenticity should not be confused with originality.

Some people strive to differentiate themselves from everyone else so as to prove their authenticity. "Because I'm different I am purely me." This is clearly falacious as these choices are simply reactionary.

I also think it is impossible to be fully authentic 100% of the time. I believe that would kill you. The brain has to go on auto-pilot sometimes. But that is not an excuse never to examine the genuis behind one's actions.

Makes sense to me. When I've heard it, it seems to have meant either, "I'll only do things I really want to do," which is impossible, immature, and selfish, or, as you said, when someone is going out of his/her way to be "different," as if that is the only thing that gives a person value (and then there's the lyric "but isn't she p*&&d that all the other nonconformists listen to that same obscure band"). But you're talking about actually thinking about your actions, and owning your decisions. That's the only way you can ever make any kind of progress, honestly. I'm an introspective, analytical person, and I think you are, too, but I am amazed at the people who just aren't--and I'm not talking abt obsessive navel-gazing, just the ability to look at themselves from the outside. When they run into problems, they have a hard time solving them, and waste a great deal of time blaming others for them. This actually plays into your previous quote--you can only make progress if you look at the world, or your life, or whatever, as it really is, and not as you wish it to be. Really like those quotes, dude--keep it up!

WOW and WOW. Thanks Lawrence for sharing this amazing Poem

WOW and WOW. Thanks L for sharing Wendell's amazing words.

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