Posted by: atowhee | June 28, 2017


Update: my loyal correspondent, James Laffan, Esq., alerted me to the fact that a new documentary about Berry’s worldview has been produced and is now showing, or for sale.  Click here for the website. It’s titled: “Look & See.”

I recently read a collection of letters between these two men, a couple of my favorite poets and men who live close to their beloved earth, not in an urban apartment or an underground bunker:

“An ethical life is one that is mindful, mannerly, and has style.  Of all moral failings and flaws of character, the worst is stinginess of thought, which includes meanness in all forms.  Rudeness in thought or deed toward others, toward nature, reduces the chances of conviviality and interspecies communication which are essential to physical and spiritual survival.”  Practice of the Wild, Gary Snyder

“What I am beginning to see as the highgrade badness that is evil is the assumption that there is no value or order that precedes or outranks the human—that there is no mystery, no occasion for awe or deference.”                                                                                     Letter to Snyder, Wendell Berry

“the fox cub trots his almost pathless path”           Wendell Berry

“The great fact of the last 8,000 years is civilization; the power of which has been and remains greater than the power of any religion within that time span.”        –Gary Snyder

“The human species is dominant, and its dominance is disastrous without responsibility.”
— Wendell Berry
“In a society even nominally Christian, the Bible is bound to be a source of cheap religious thrills and of a false and abusive authority.  It also becomes a kind of ‘parent” against which the rebellious will rebel.”
–Wendell Berry

“Both profit and monoculture, it seems to me, only stand for the civilized dep[recitation of sacredness and the consequent willingness to desecrate.”                                    –Wendell Berry

“There are worse things than extinction.”                                             –Wendell Berry

“We are not a domesticated species, we are a wild species.  Nobody has ever controlled our breeding to produce certain desired characteristics.”                                         –Gary Snyder

Grizzly “And when the bear is gone
the mountains are lonely
incomplete, not all there,
the big one is missing
the edge of the weave is torn,
it begins to unravel from there.”                                              –Gary Snyder

“It’s not necessary to have so many human beings, in fact it’s degrading.  For people.”     –Gary Snyder

“I don’t see how anyone can responsibly determine and prescribe an optimum human population.  That would be a job of enormous intricacy, and I think there would be an enormous risk of error… A lot of monstrosity could be the result, and I unhesitatingly prefer extinction to monstrosity.”  –Berry

“I find modern history of our species (culture) profoundly discouraging, and I don’t think I am alone in this.  I see a lot of what looks like evidence of outright misanthropy; in advertising, on TV, in modern weapons, in books and movies, in popular and scientific attitudes toward bodily life and sexuality.  A lot of contempt for what Blake called ‘the human form divine’.”                   –Wendell Berry

“I like things that are little and brown,
Beetles and sparrows and mice.
For to see them well you must kneel down,
And a humbling science is nice.”                                                                             –Bob Weeden

“All our food is souls.”                                                                                              –Inuit insight

The book is called Distant Neighbors.


  1. Wonderful. The book must be overwhelming……like my niece, Erin, when she was four and we brought her to the County Fair. She was so overwhelmed seeing all the rides (quotes) that she wanted to try that she didn’t know what to do first and just begin to cry………

    m a

  2. Must track down this book, thanks.

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