The Question

Though more of us than ever before live a life of luxury and ease, fewer of us can claim that our lives our permeated with peace and joy. The frantic, stressful striving going on all around us indicates that we are profoundly lost. We seem unable to ask with any seriousness or depth the question of what all our striving is ultimately for.

Norman Wirzba, from the introduction to The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry.

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What’s it for?

I remember joking with my brother and sisters as we were growing up about the fact that once we were old enough to drive, our parents expected us to get jobs in town, so we could earn enough money to pay for the cars that we had to have in order to drive to our jobs in town.

Back when I was bringing home the lawyer income I ate a lot of meals in restaurants. It was expensive, but I didn’t have time to grow and prepare my own food. I was too busy earning the money I needed to buy food.

Nowadays it is very rare for us to eat in a restaurant. Restaurant meals aren’t in our budget and even if they were, why would we? We raise nearly all of our own food here now and the food we eat every day would be an expensive treat at a gourmet restaurant. The fact of the matter is that our everyday meals are superior to nearly anything we could get at a restaurant.

One of the lessons we’ve learned from our downward mobility is that much of what we earn money to pay for becomes unnecessary once you step out of the rat race. Food is an obvious example but there are many more. Just as in our teenage years we had to have jobs to pay for the cars we needed in order to have jobs, we discovered that we were still doing that in many ways. Once we stepped away from that life and took at hard look at what we really needed to buy, we found that it was very little. It was disconcerting at first–we’ve been conditioned to believe it just isn’t true–but once the truth of it settled in, it was liberating.

On our current income we can’t afford to eat out often. But the truth is that we’re wealthier than if we could.

Decluttering

Cherie is a ruthless declutterer. Nothing stays here long if it isn’t being used. So we have a generally clutter-free house.

But our place isn’t entirely clutter-free, thanks to some of the areas in my domain.

In my office, for example, the bookshelves are full and books are stacked in piles on the floor. Most are books I’ll never read again. By holding on to them, all I’m doing is preventing them from finding their way to people who might enjoy reading them, while simultaneously cluttering up the room.

Likewise the barn and the equipment shed now contain stuff accumulated over ten plus years for which I can theoretically imagine some future need, but which have served no purpose over the last decade other than to clutter up the buildings.

So decluttering is my list of things to do this winter, when there is time for such projects. It won’t be easy letting go of all those books, or the junk in the barn, but I’m gonna try. Then there is that large tub of compact discs in the basement….

Disappearing Farmers

(T)he countryside is suffering from want of caretakers. Farming at its best was diversified and very well done. The people who did that work here are dead or gone and their children are gone. They’re being replaced by huge machines and toxic chemicals.

Wendell Berry

Today only about 15 percent of Americans live in rural areas, the lowest percentage ever. And these days few Americans raise or grow any of their own food. Whereas in 1945 approximately 30 percent of Americans were farmers and the average farm was 195 acres, today less than one percent of Americans claim farming as their occupation, and most cropland is on farms with more than 1,000 acres. Even among those Americans who still live in rural areas, 90 percent of them are not farmers. There are now twice as many Americans in prison as there are farming.

From Organic Wesley

One Month In

It’s now been about a month since my book Organic Wesley was published and the reaction has been generally positive. I’m pleased that churches around the country are using it for congregational group studies, I’m hearing from people who have enjoyed it, and I even have my very first Amazon review.

Biblical scholar and professor Brian Russell interviewed me about the book on his blog (HERE).

I’ve been especially pleased at some of things Wesleyan scholar Howard Snyder has had to say about it. He tweeted: “Bill Guerrant’s Organic Wesley is now essential Wesleyan reading.” On Facebook he described it as “must reading.” I’m not gonna lie. That gives me a sense of accomplishment.

The videos are available now (streaming) and the DVDs should be available very soon (HERE).

I wondered if anyone would want to publish this book and then I wondered if anyone would want to read it. It feels good to know that folks are reading it and it’s especially satisfying to know that some are finding merit in it.

The Emma Caites Way

emma caites

Many readers of this blog will know A.V. Walters, the blogger and homesteader. She and her husband are building their own house and carving out a homestead in northern Michigan. Her blog (HERE) is highly recommended.

Perhaps less known in these parts is that A.V. is also a novelist, with two published novels to her credit. They’ve been on my “want to read” list a long time. A few days ago her first novel, The Emma Caites Way, finally transitioned from that list to my “books read” list.

It’s a delightful novel–an engaging story that begins with the purchase of an old painting in an Oakland, California thrift shop, a purchase that sparks the buyer’s curiosity about the unknown painter and evolves into a quest to discover her story.

As with most good stories, The Emma Caites Way both informs and entertains. A page-turner, I quickly found myself anxious to join the characters in their search and the book was an enjoyable companion over the few nights it took me to finish it. Along the way I learned how oil paintings are restored and was introduced to some previously unknown art history.

It is evident that the author knows well the world in which this novel is set–a world that seems strikingly different from the world I imagine her to inhabit today. I find that intriguing and suggestive of a journey that may deserve a telling of its own.

Winter is coming. We’ll all want to have a stack of books on hand to help get us through the cold dark evenings. The Emma Caites Way would be a fine addition to that pile.