(Re)-reading Wendell Berry on vocation and community (part 2)

From Look and See, documentary on Wendell Berry (2016)

I am afraid that some amount of doubt may have crept into this project since my last post on Wendell Berry and his definition of community.  My argument in that post was simple: it would be good if professionals, and those who train them, might spend at least a few moments thinking through the implications of Berry’s ideal community along with his critique on modernity — both are described in his 1969 essay, “The loss of the future.”

The doubt crept in after I took my own advice and re-read Berry’s 2014 essay, “Our deserted country,” which can be found in the 2015 collection entitled Our Only World.

The essay contains the following definition of vocation:

The idea of vocation attaches to work a cluster of other ideas, including devotion, skill, pride, pleasure, the good stewardship of means and materials.  Here we have returned to intangibles of economic value. When they are subtracted, what remains is “a job,” always implying that work is something good only to escape: “Thank God it’s Friday.”

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Stories that inspire courage and hope

At first glance, the two women may seem to have little in common. Elise Boulding was born in 1920 and died in 2010. Emma González, until two weeks ago, was a high school student studying for her AP exams. Right now she’s more famous than Elise Boulding. These two women, especially, have had deep impact on my vocation as professor and leader: Boulding gave me courage and hope when I was a struggling young professor. González gives me hope now. Continue reading

With a little help from our friends: Aristotle, Thoreau and “Red Oaks” on friendship

On the subject of friendship, the following quote from Henry David Thoreau seems to be popular:

Thoreau quote from Brainyquote

For now, we can overlook the fact that this is a slight alteration of what Thoreau actually wrote (!) and instead pause to consider what it was that he was aiming to capture about the nature of friendship. I want to explore the connection between friendship and vocation, and especially the role that genuine friendships can play in the vocational discernment of young adults. Continue reading

Please Help Reshape a Collection of Readings on Vocation


helpwantedThe anthology Leading Lives that Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be (LLTM) has been widely used by faculty and students at NetVUE schools as a collection of texts that can be used to guide and stimulate the exploration of vocation. The book, edited by Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass (Eerdmans, 2006), includes a wide variety of selections — poems, short stories, essays, speeches, obituaries, screenplays, and excerpts from longer works — drawn from both religious and secular sources.

The editors are now developing a second edition, and they seek your advice.

The book was originally Continue reading

(Re)-reading Wendell Berry on community and vocation (part 1)

Wendell Berry (Photo by Guy Mendes)
Wendell Berry (Photo by Guy Mendes)

One definition of  “community” that I have become fond of lately comes from a quote by Wendell Berry.  You don’t have to look very hard for a good quote by Wendell Berry about almost anything.  I could get lost on Berry’s BrainyQuote page and never find my way out.  The connection between vocation and community is strong throughout Berry’s work, but David Guthrie’s recent post, which highlights the many shortcomings of our academic communities, has convinced me that  Berry has something important to say about this connection.  My plan is to look at two of Berry’s essays, the first (in this post) published in 1969 and the second (next time) published in 2015, that contain definitions of community and vocation that may very well be… definitive.  Continue reading