Windows Vista has a search feature which can very quickly show you all the files that contain a particular phrase. While poking around to see what I had written about Wendell Berry I ran across some very old weblog entries, stuff I didn’t even think existed anymore. Well, it doesn’t exist on the internet anymore, and I don’t know that I’ll ever put them back, but I spent an hour or so reading through descriptions of our life as it was in 2000 and 2001, and came out disoriented—that was a long time ago, in many ways.
And the snippet I had written about Wendell Berry? Here it is, written 12/31/01:
John posts an evocative remembrance of a neighbor who just died, a farmer with whom he and the other neighborhood children spent much time while they were growing up. It’s powerful stuff, especially at a time when I’m immersed in Wendell Berry’s writings and engaged in a disheartening dust-up on a discussion board over the validity of agrarianism (I’m the main defender, and being no agrarian myself I feel like a bit of a fool/hypocrite making the case for it).
Just last night a friend and I were talking about the kind of life we in the community are working to build. He made the suggestion that we needed to think of our lives in narrative terms, that every path we choose should be chosen with an eye to the resulting story we will be telling our children and grandchildren. We should live so that those stories will be edifying stories, that they will serve as models for them to use in structuring their own lives.
I think our family has a few good stories of that sort to pass on. Some were written this year: how we moved across the country to a small town to be in community, rather than to a large town in pursuit of a career; how we put family planning back into God’s hands; how we gave up a lucrative line of work in order to pursue work that is more self-sufficient, more local, and more likely to be one that the whole family can participate in. And we’re still thinking about how to write the most honest, most edifying stories we can. If my grandson asks me “Grandpa, why weren’t you a farmer?”, I’ll proably end up answering “Honey, given our starting point, the best we were able to do was to lay the foundations so that you could become one.” But if he asks me “Grandpa, why did you buy your eggs at the supermarket?”, I probably won’t have a very good answer–and so I’m already looking for a place to shop where the distance from chicken to egg is much shorter.
If we do things right, perhaps someday the neighborhood kids will be able to write a remembrance like John’s about us. But how could it ever have happened if we had continued to live a modern urban lifestyle?