Berry, Wendell




Wendell Berry, born in 1934, is an American novelist, essayist, poet, and philosopher-farmer. He taught for many years at the University of Kentucky and has written over twenty-five books, many of them about the sense of community that he values in agrarian life. In his short essay ʺHealing,ʺ Berry proposes that ʺgood workʺ can help us ʺenter the little circle of each other’s arms...and the larger circle of all creatures.ʺ For this to happen he claims we first require solitude: ʺOne returns from solitude laden with the gifts of circumstance.ʺ But what constitutes ʺgood work?ʺ Is solitude necessary for us to do good work--including civic work?

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What Are People For?, Wendell Berry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990).




Citizenship and DemocracyGiving and ReceivingHealth and HealingServing and VolunteeringWisdom and Contemplation

Big Questions

What does good giving require?What makes a good gift?Does the world need healing? What would that look like?Do acts of service lead to social change?How can contemplation change our actions?What do we hope to learn from meditation or contemplation?What does it look like to be truly present?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Do you agree with the speaker that "healing is to respect oneself as a creature, no more and no less"?
  2. What do you think of the humility in this poem?
  3. What is the relationship between "solitude" and "loneliness"?
  4. What can we do to help others heal?
  5. In your professional life, when do you help heal others and when do you let them heal themselves?
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