Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

Brick and Mortar

August 10, 2008

Every once in a great while, I actually walk through a real bookstore. Usually, it is one of the big-box places, which though they are wide and accommodating, do not lend themselves to thoughtful browsing and happy discoveries. Like the internet, they are great when you know what you are looking for, but they do not often surprise you. So it’s fun to go somewhere where you can get a feel for the person who picks the inventory, even before you’re able to actually meet them.

Once such place is The Potter’s House, a dense collection of books squished into the corner of a coffee shop/art gallery in DC. It is one of the many initiatives of Church of the Saviour, and yet another such example of a place in Adams-Morgan where various races and classes rub elbows and share life.

What I found there (among some other treasures) was a collection of interviews with Wendell Berry. Which is fascinating for its breadth– Berry is a notable figure in the fields agriculture, writing, literature, environmentalism, community development, politics, and religion– and for Berry’s remarkable ability to speak with intelligence and wisdom at the drop of a hat. Too, it is an interesting time machine. Not only in the sense of seeing what he has said over the course of 30-plus years, but also in the way in which he has consistently been ahead of his time in what he champions, and the way in which he is not looking back to some idealized time period but is in fact looking toward a hopeful future. He talks about permanence, and he speaks as an old man (even before he was one), but he’s anything but a relic.

So I’m enjoying a rather wandering journey through this thick volume. It is one of those books that you don’t want to read from front to back, or even finish, but rather leave it laying around to peruse at random. Small doses of such wisdom are a more effective treatment for our current condition.

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