Live Virtual Group Session: 12PM EST January 27th 2023

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

For this session we read an excerpt from the essay “Damage” by Wendell Berry, posted below. 

Our prompt was: Write about what is enough.

More details will be posted on this session, so check back again!

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Monday January 30th at 6pm EST, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions.


"Damage" by Wendell Berry

III 

It used to be that I could think of art as a refuge from such troubles. From the imperfections of life, one could take refuge in the perfections of art. One could read a good poem – or better, write one. 

Art was what was truly permanent, therefore what truly mattered. The rest was "but a spume that plays / Upon a ghostly paradigm of things." 

I am no longer able to think that way. That is because I now live in my subject. My subject is my place in the world, and I live in my place. 

There is a sense in which I no longer "go to work." If I live in my place, which is my subject, then I am "at” my work even when I am not working. It is "my" work because I cannot escape it. 

If I live in my subject, then writing about it cannot "free" me of it or "get it out of my system." When I am finished writing, I can only return to what I have been writing about. 

While I have been writing about it, time will have changed it. Over longer stretches of time, I will change it. Ultimately, it will be changed by what I write, inasmuch as I, who change my subject, am changed by what I write about it. 

If I have damaged my subject, then I have damaged my art. What aspired to be whole has met damage face to face, and has come away wounded. And so it loses interest both in the anesthetic and in the purely esthetic. 
 
It accepts the clarification of pain, and concerns itself with healing. It cultivates the scar that is the course of time and nature over damage: the landmark and mindmark that is the notation of a limit. 

To lose the scar of knowledge is to renew the wound. 

An art that heals and protects its subject is a geography of scars. 

IV 

"you never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough." 

I used to think of Blake's sentence as a justification of youthful excess. By now I know that it describes the peculiar condemnation of our species. When the road of excess has reached the palace of wisdom it is a healed wound, a long scar. 

Culture preserves the map and the records of past journeys so that no generation will permanently destroy the route.  

The more local and settled the culture, the better it stays put, the less the damage. It is the foreigner whose road of excess leads to a desert. 

Blake gives the just proportion or control in another proverb: "No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings." Only when our acts are empowered with more than bodily strength do we need to think of limits. 

It was no thought or word that called culture into being, but a tool or a weapon. After the stone axe we needed song and story to remember innocence, to record effect – and so to describe the limits, to say what can be done without damage. 

The use only of our bodies for work or love or pleasure, or even for combat, sets us free again in the wilderness, and we exult. 

But a man with a machine and inadequate culture – such as I was when I made my pond – is a pestilence. He shakes more than he can hold.

Credit: Wendell Berry, Damage, 4 Hastings West Northwest J. of Envtl. L. & Pol'y 71 (1997) 

11 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 12PM EST January 27th 2023

  1. About what is enough~~~

    Wars from the beginning of time,
    reducing civilization to a pile of armaments and dead bodies strewn on the blood-stained earth.
    The perpetual grab for more– more money, more land, more control.
    What is enough… when our precious earth has become a has-been?

    Stop… listen to your heart, listen to your mind, listen to others whose voices rise above the din.
    Forsaken souls need to be heard and healed.
    To do less is a disservice to us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elizabeth

      Michele-so much is packed into your writing. One of my favorite lines is “What is enough… When our precious earth has become a has—been?”—-it is so bleak, but I am happy that you followed it up with a paragraph about stopping and listening.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rita B

    What is enough? By Rita Basuray

    It’s easier to list what is enough, if I start with what isn’t – living purposefully, living enough, loving enough, longing, satisfying, being satisfied, adorning or not, and so on.

    It is enough when both the body and mind say so – enough. I can now end with a sense of peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elizabeth

      Rita—-I like that you go to what isn’t enough to understand what is enough. I also like the brevity of writing and that you can finish your work with a sense of peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Elizabeth

    When we feel things are falling apart around us,
    Then the basics…
    Food, clothing, shelter, health, relationships
    Feel like enough.
    They actually feel more than enough,
    They feel luxurious.
    Then when things settle down around us,
    That’s when we tend to want
    More and more
    And even more.

    Like

  4. “Write about what is enough.”

    A plate piled with food does not have to be finished.
    A closet filled with clothes with multiple outfit combinations.
    Money to pay the bills and do what I want.
    A nice place to live.
    Feeling content some of the time.
    People who love me.
    Devoted friends.
    Good health
    A job that sometimes affords me a chance to make a difference.
    It is tempting to want more and to look at what others have.
    I have enough
    I am enough

    Like

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