Wendell Berry: It All Turns on Affection

In 2012 Wendell Berry gave the Jefferson Lecture to the National Endowment of the Hummanities. I ran across this recently through pure serendipity. In this lecture he says many Brilliant things including the distinction between Boomers - those who relentlessly go wherever they can to achieve wealth - and Stickers - those who stay put for the love of place and community. 

Essentially, what he has written is the very best and most beautiful argument for "local" business.

If this were a book, every page would be dog eared.

It all turns on affection. 


"I will say, from my own belief and experience, that imagination thrives on contact, on tangible connection. For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it. To have a place, to live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it, we must imagine it. By imagination we see it illuminated by its own unique character and by our love for it. By imagination we recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place. By that local experience we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world. As imagination enables sympathy, sympathy enables affection. And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.

Obviously there is some risk in making affection the pivot of an argument about economy. The charge will be made that affection is an emotion, merely “subjective,” and therefore that all affections are more or less equal: people may have affection for their children and their automobiles, their neighbors and their weapons. But the risk, I think, is only that affection is personal. If it is not personal, it is nothing; we don’t, at least, have to worry about governmental or corporate affection. And one of the endeavors of human cultures, from the beginning, has been to qualify and direct the influence of emotion. The word “affection” and the terms of value that cluster around it—love, care, sympathy, mercy, forbearance, respect, reverence—have histories and meanings that raise the issue of worth. We should, as our culture has warned us over and over again, give our affection to things that are true, just, and beautiful. When we give affection to things that are destructive, we are wrong. A large machine in a large, toxic, eroded cornfield is not, properly speaking, an object or a sign of affection."

Watch the lecture here: http://www.neh.gov/news/2012-jefferson-lecture-wendell-berry

Or read it here: http://www.neh.gov/about/awards/jefferson-lecture/wendell-e-berry-lecture