Wendell Berry on Thinking Little

Wendell Berry writes in his essay, Think Little, of the tendency for Americans, who have, according to him, lost their “private life” to think of change in increments of organizations, rather than actually changing the way they live their own lives.

He writes:

“… The citizen who is willing to think little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving a problem. A man who is trying to live as a neighbor to his neighbors will have a lively and practical understanding of the work of peace and brotherhood, and let there be no mistake about it – he is doing that work. A couple who make a good marriage, and raise healthy, morally competent children, are serving the world’s future more directly and surely than any political leader, though they never utter a public word. A good farmer who is dealing with the problem of soil erosion on an acre of ground has a sounder grasp of that problem and cares more about it and is probably doing more to solve it than any bureaucrat who is talking about it in general.”

There is a lot wrong with this broken world. We can’t change it all, but we can make some impact on that small piece of it to which we are called. Our jobs. Our families. Our homes. The ground we build our homes on. Each of our lives extend into many smaller spheres. Berry says, and I believe the Bible would agree, that living faithfully in small, consistent ways has incredible changing power. We have to think little, however. Everyone wants a big place in the story, but in pursuing that large place we may miss out on the small, mundane chances to be faithful unfolding every day around us. The irony here is that if there ever will be a larger work it will only be the collection of many tiny faithfulnesses that grow in a life or in a church or in a community. It may be foolish to imagine having the one without the other, or in longing for a larger work without ever having learned the lesson of the small and the simple.

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