cover image Life Is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition

Life Is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition

Wendell Berry. Counterpoint LLC, $13.5 (124pp) ISBN 978-1-58243-058-4

Living for almost 40 years on a family farm in Kentucky has led Berry to place a high value on local knowledge born of a long and affectionate engagement of the intellect and imagination with a particular place. To readers of his poems, novels (Memory of Old Jack, etc.) and essays (The Unsettling of America, etc.), it will be no surprise that in his latest essay collection, he argues cogently and passionately against the proposition E.O. Wilson puts forth in Consilience, that our best hope for preserving the biosphere lies in linking facts and fact-based theory across disciplines under the hegemony of the natural sciences. Though a conservationist, like Wilson, Berry strongly believes that the materialist prescription for what ails us--ecologically, culturally and spiritually--will simply bind us more tightly to the often destructive, profit-driven triad of science, technology and industry. It will also move us further away, avers Berry, from what he sees as the sense of propriety that calls on us to base our thoughts and actions on our inescapable interdependency with the planet's other life forms. Berry also opposes the belief underlying Consilience, that scientific analysis can ultimately explain everything: ""to reduce the mystery and miracle of life to something that can be figured out is inevitably to enslave it, make property of it and put it up for sale."" In opposition to this view, Berry proposes evaluating our behavior and work on how they affect ""the health and durability of human and natural communities."" To do that, he contends, we must go beyond Wilson's empirical knowledge to imaginative knowledge--to knowing things ""intimately, particularly, precisely, gratefully, reverently, and with affection."" Agent, the Spieler Agency. (June)