Memory lane

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?


5 thoughts on “Memory lane

  1. Rick,
    It is interesting to read this. Of course you wouldn’t know it, but I met you near this time at a couple’s camp. We were (I still am) both IT guys and so I was intrigued that you left the line of work to start your small company and move to a small town.
    I am still in IT, but last year we moved to a very small town in Western NC from a “good” job in Charlotte. It has been fun to keep up with your writings over these years. It has also been very encouraging to see you live out your ideals. The thing that I am most impressed with is your constant drive to make at least some progress in the direction you want to go – even when they are small steps. Obviously, over the years you have covered a great distance!

  2. “I’m… engaged in a disheartening dust-up on a discussion board over the validity of agrarianism….”

    I remember that discussion! It was the first time I had a name to put to what I was longing for, and it was tied up with becoming Reformed, and with finally beginning to understand some of the things my daddy talked about. He’d only passed away four years before that, and the pain of missing him was still pretty intense.

  3. Kelly,

    If you remember it, then I hope I wasn’t too mean to the other participants. At that time I thought that a sharp tongue was a proper and useful weapon for advancing the kingdom, and I cringe sometimes when I run across exchanges I had with others on such topics. In fact, one woman was surprised when she met me, saying she thought of me as “six feet tall and very angry.”

  4. Mike B,

    My disappointments have come mainly when I tried to big-think my way closer to the goal. And my successes (and pleasures) have come mainly when I have been careful to make sure I had picked all the low-hanging fruit before setting my eyes on anything higher. (Which is just a paraphrase of Elisabeth Elliot’s advice to “do the next thing.”)

    I do still find it helpful to think about the big things. Even though such thinking doesn’t directly guide what we do, it does strengthen our courage to take the scarier steps when they confront us.

  5. Thanks Rick, that is just the sort of thought I keep coming back for. Love your catalog by the way, looking forward to re-reading it soon and underlining this time!

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