74+ Best Wendell Berry Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Wendell Erdman Berry is an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. Profoundly inspirational Wendell Berry quotes will make you look at life differently and help you live a meaningful life.

Famous Wendell Berry Quotes

The Captains of Industry have always counseled the rest of us to be realistic. Let us, therefore, be realistic. Is it realistic to assume that the present economy would be just fine if only it would stop poisoning the air and water, or if only it would stop soil erosion, or if only it would stop degrading watersheds and forest ecosystems, or if only it would stop seducing children, or if only it would stop buying politicians, or if only it would give women and favored minorities an equitable share of the loot? – Wendell Berry

Eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture. They think of themselves as ‘consumers.’ – Wendell Berry

Perhaps it is to prepare to hear some day the music of the spheres that I am always turning my ears to the music of streams. There is indeed a music in streams, but it is not for the hurried. It has to be loitered by and imagined. Or imagined toward, for it is hardly for men at all. Nature has a patient ear. To her the slowest funeral march sounds like a jig. She is satisfied to have the notes drawn out to the lengths of days or weeks or months. Small variations are acceptable to her, modulations as leisurely as the opening of a flower. – Wendell Berry

A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance. – Wendell Berry

A man with a machine and inadequate culture is a pestilence. – Wendell Berry

All right, every day ain’t going to be the best day of your life, don’t worry about that. If you stick to it you hold the possibility open that you will have better days. – Wendell Berry

If we are to have a culture as resilient and competent in the face of necessity as it needs to be, then it must somehow involve within itself a ceremonious generosity toward the wilderness of natural force and instinct. The farm must yield a place to the forest, not as a wood lot, or even as a necessary agricultural principle but as a sacred grove – a place where the Creation is let alone, to serve as instruction, example, refuge; a place for people to go, free of work and presumption, to let themselves alone. (pg. 125, The Body and the Earth) – Wendell Berry

We walked always in beauty, it seemed to me. We walked and looked about, or stood and looked. Sometimes, less often, we would sit down. We did not often speak. The place spoke for us and was a kind of speech. We spoke to each other in the things we saw. – Wendell Berry

There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places. – Wendell Berry

We have made it our overriding ambition to escape work, and as a consequence have debased work until it is only fit to escape from. We have debased the products of work and have been, in turn, debased by them. (pg. 43, The Unsettling of America) – Wendell Berry

The primary motive for good care and good use of the land-community is always going to be affection, which is too often lacking. – Wendell Berry

This, I thought, is what is meant by ‘thy will be done’ in the Lord’s Prayer, which I had prayed time and again without thinking about it. It means that your will and God’s will may not be the same. It means there’s a good possibility that you won’t get what you pray for. It means that in spite of your prayers you are going to suffer. – Wendell Berry

The soil under the grass is dreaming of a young forest, and under the pavement the soil is dreaming of grass. – Wendell Berry

Individualism is going around these days in uniform, handing out the party line on individualism. – Wendell Berry

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings. – Wendell Berry

The industrial mind is a mind without compunction; it simply accepts that people, ultimately, will be treated as things and that things, ultimately, will be treated as garbage. (A Defense of the Family Farm, 1986) – Wendell Berry

Some nights in the midst of this loneliness I swung among the scattered stars at the end of the thin thread of faith alone. – Wendell Berry

Our obsession with security is a measure of the power we have granted the future to hold over us. – Wendell Berry

But the only possible guarantee of the future is responsible behavior in the present. – Wendell Berry

Under the discipline of unity, knowledge and morality come together. No longer can we have that paltry ‘objective’ knowledge so prized by the academic specialists. To know anything at all becomes a moral predicament. Aware that there is no such thing as a specialized effect, one becomes responsible for judgments as well as facts. Aware that as an agricultural scientist he had ‘one great subject,’ Sir Albert Howard could no longer ask, What can I do with what I know? without at the same time asking, How can I be responsible for what I know? – Wendell Berry

We do not need to plan or devise a world of the future; if we take care of the world of the present, the future will have received full justice from us. A good future is implicit in the soils, forests, grasslands, marshes, deserts, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans that we have now, and in the good things of human culture that we have now; the only valid futurology available to us is to take care of those things. We have no need to contrive and dabble at the future of the human race; we have the same pressing need that we have always had – to love, care for, and teach our children. – Wendell Berry

And so there would always be more to remember that could no longer be seen…our history is always returning to a little patch of weeds and saplings with an old chimney sticking up by itself…and here I look ahead to the resting of my case: I love the house that belonged to the chimney, holding it bright in memory, and love the saplings and the weeds. – Wendell Berry

It is wrong to condemn people for doing a thing and then offer no alternative but failure. A person could get mad about that. – Wendell Berry

People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other. – Wendell Berry

Battle with unconditioned breath the unconditioned air. Shun electric wire. Communicate slowly. Live a three-dimensional life; stay away from screens. – Wendell Berry

Like the water of a deep stream, love is always too much. We did not make it. Though we drink till we burst, we cannot have it all, or want it all. In its abundance it survives our thirst. In the evening we come down to the shore to drink our fill, and sleep, while it flows through the regions of the dark. It does not hold us, except we keep returning to its rich waters thirsty. We enter, willing to die, into the commonwealth of its joy. – Wendell Berry

Without a complex knowledge of one’s place and without the faithfulness to one’s place on which such knowledge depends, it is inevitable that the place will be used carelessly, and eventually destroyed. Without such knowledge and faithfulness, moreover, the culture of a country will be superficial and decorative, functional only insofar as it may be a symbol of prestige, the affectation of an elite or in group. – Wendell Berry

And having thoughtlessly polluted our streams and rivers, we have seen in recent years a rapidly growing market for bottled drinking water. I am sure that some will say that a rapidly growing market for water is good for the economy, and most of us are still affluent enough to pay the cost. Nevertheless, it is a considerable cost that we are now paying for drinkable water, which we once had in plentiful supply at little cost or none at all. And the increasing of the cost suggests that the time may come when the cost will be unaffordable. – Wendell Berry

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. – Wendell Berry

We can say without exaggeration that the present national ambition of the United States is unemployment. People live for quitting time, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement; moreover, this ambition seems to be classless, as true in the executive suites as on the assembly lines. One works not because the work is necessary, valuable, useful to a desirable end, or because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit – a condition that a saner time would regard as infernal, a condemnation. – Wendell Berry

Again I resume the long lesson: how small a thing can be pleasing, how little in this hard world it takes to satisfy the mind and bring it to its rest. – Wendell Berry

There are, it seems, two muses: The Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say, ‘It is yet more difficult than you thought.’ It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. – Wendell Berry

To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival. – Wendell Berry

There is no sense and no sanity in objecting to the desecration of the flag while tolerating and justifying and encouraging as a daily business the desecration of the country for which it stands. – Wendell Berry

How would you describe the difference between modern war and modern industry-between say, bombing and strip mining, or between chemical warfare and chemical manufacturing? The difference seems to be only that in war the victimization of humans is directly intentional and in industry it is accepted as a trade-off. Were the catastrophes of Love Canal, Bhopal, Chernobyl, and the Exxon Valdez episodes of war or of peace? They were in fact, peacetime acts of aggression, intentional to the extent that the risks were known and ignored. – Wendell Berry

Want of imagination makes things unreal enough to be destroyed. By imagination I mean knowledge and love. I mean compassion. People of power kill children, the old send the young to die, because they have no imagination. They have power. Can you have power and imagination at the same time? Can you kill people you don’t know and have compassion for them at the same time? – Wendell Berry

A good community insures itself by trust, by good faith and good will, by mutual help. A good community, in other words, is a good local economy. – Wendell Berry

We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough? – Wendell Berry

But the sower going forth to sow sets foot into time to come, the seeds falling on his own place. He has prepared a way for his life to come to him, if it will. Like a tree, he has given roots to the earth, and stands free. – Wendell Berry

The aim of industrialization has always been to replace people with machines or other technology, to make the cost of production as low as possible, to sell the product as high as possible, and to move the wealth into fewer and fewer hands. – Wendell Berry

Waking up from a dream of violence is much the same as waking up from a dream of love. You must go on living your life. – Wendell Berry

In Kentucky, we’re destroying mountains, including their soils and forests, in order to get at the coal. In other words, we’re destroying a permanent value in order to get at an almost inconceivably transient value. That coal has a value only if and when it is burnt. And after it is burnt, it is a pollutant and a waste-a burden. – Wendell Berry

If we do not live where we work and when we work we are wasting our lives and our work too. – Wendell Berry

Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias. – Wendell Berry

The reason to preserve wilderness is that we need it. We need wilderness of all kinds, large and small, public and private. Wee need to go now and again into places where our work is disallowed, where our hopes and plans have no standing. We need to come into the presence of the unqualified and mysterious formality of Creation. – Wendell Berry

I began to know my story then. Like everybody’s, it was going to be the story of living in the absence of the dead. What is the thread that holds it all together? Grief, I thought for a while. And grief is there sure enough, just about all the way through. From the time I was a girl I have never been far from it. But grief is not a force and has no power to hold. You only bear it. Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery. – Wendell Berry

Physical health doesn’t exist apart from the health of other things. Health ultimately involves the community, and the community ultimately involves the place and natural life of that place, so that real health is harmony with the world. – Wendell Berry

It is no more possible to live in the future than it is to live in the past. If life is not now, it is never. – Wendell Berry

To be interested in food but not in food production is clearly absurd. – Wendell Berry

The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all. – Wendell Berry

The pleasure of eating should be an extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet. People who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown and know that the garden is healthy will remember the beauty of the growing plants, perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are at their best. Such a memory involves itself with the food and is one of the pleasures of eating. (pg. 326, The Pleasures of Eating) – Wendell Berry

The passive American consumer, sitting down to a meal of pre-prepared food, confronts inert, anonymous substances that have been processed, dyed, breaded, sauced, gravied, ground, pulped, strained, blended, prettified, and sanitized beyond resemblance to any part of any creature that ever lived. The products of nature and agriculture have been made, to all appearances, the products of industry. Both eater and eaten are thus in exile from biological reality. – Wendell Berry

Perhaps all the good that ever has come here has come because people prayed it into the world. – Wendell Berry

As I understand it, I am being paid only for my work in arranging the words; my property is that arrangement. The thoughts in this book, on the contrary, are not mine. They came freely to me, and I give them freely away. I have no intellectual property, and I think that all claimants to such property are theives. – Wendell Berry

We could say that the human race is a great coauthorship in which we are collaborating with God and nature in the making of ourselves and one another. From this there is no escape. We may collaborate either well or poorly or we may refuse to collaborate, but even to refuse to collaborate is to exert an influence and to affect the quality of the product. This is only a way of saying that by ourselves we have no meaning and no dignity; by ourselves we are outside the human definition, outside our identity. – Wendell Berry

The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful. – Wendell Berry

The Christian gospel is a summons to peace, calling for justice beyond anger, mercy beyond justice, forgiveness beyond mercy, love beyond forgiveness. – Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me… I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. – Wendell Berry

In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter, war spreading, families dying, the world in danger, I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover. – Wendell Berry

New grief, when it came, you could feel filling the air. It took up all the room there was. The place itself, the whole place, became a reminder of the absence of the hurt or the dead or the missing one. I don’t believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and griever alike endure. – Wendell Berry

Be joyful because it is humanly possible. – Wendell Berry

Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living in a mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend. – Wendell Berry

The earth is what we all have in common. – Wendell Berry

You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions. – Wendell Berry

It is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it. – Wendell Berry

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible… In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. – Wendell Berry

Can we actually suppose that we are wasting, polluting, and making ugly this beautiful land for the sake of patriotism and the love of God? Perhaps some of us would like to think so, but in fact this destruction is taking place because we have allowed ourselves to believe, and to live, a mated pair of economic lies: that nothing has a value that is not assigned to it by the market; and that the economic life of our communities can safely be handed over to the great corporations. – Wendell Berry

Especially among Christians in positions of wealth and power, the idea of reading the Gospels and keeping Jesus’ commandments as stated therein has been replaced by a curious process of logic. According to this process, people first declare themselves to be followers of Christ, and then they assume that whatever they say or do merits the adjective Christian. – Wendell Berry

To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for. – Wendell Berry

I see that the life of this place is always emerging beyond expectation or prediction or typicality, that it is unique, given to the world minute by minute, only once, never to be repeated. And this is when I see that this life is a miracle, absolutely worth having, absolutely worth saving. We are alive within mystery, by miracle. – Wendell Berry

What I stand for is what I stand on. – Wendell Berry

We live the given life, and not the planned. – Wendell Berry

What can’t be helped must be endured. – Wendell Berry

I dislike the thought that some animal has been made miserable to feed me. If I am going to eat meat, I want it to be from an animal that has lived a pleasant, uncrowded life outdoors, on bountiful pasture, with good water nearby and trees for shade. – Wendell Berry

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