Book review: Life is a Miracle

It’s been a while since I posted. I want to do creative writing, but haven’t had enough creative urge. I was tempted to add another older write of mine on here, and I will get to that eventually. But I took down a book from the shelf this morning and started reading through just for the parts I had underlined. This can be a real relief when a person wants to read but can’t focus at the moment. The book is Wendell Berry’s Life is a Miracle: an essay against modern superstition. Here’s the cover:

Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition

Here are some of the extensive underlinings I wandered through as I revisited this book:

“To treat life as less than a miracle is to give up on it.”

“To trust “progress” or our putative “genius” to solve all the problems that we cause is worse than bad science; it is bad religion.”

“For things cannot survive as categories but only as individual creatures living uniquely where they live.”

“The hard and binding requirement that freedom must answer, if it is to last, or if in any meaningful sense it is to exist, is that of responsibility.”

“One cannot, in honesty, propose to reconcile Heaven and Earth by denying the existence of Heaven.”

“We should abandon the idea that this world and our human life in it can be brought by science to some sort of mechanical perfection or predictability.”

“Resist classification.”

“An idea of health that does not generously and gracefully accommodate the fact of death is obviously incomplete.”

And those are the short ones. I have plenty of paragraphs marked all the way through as well. Berry is either a naturalist poet or a poetic naturalist. He uses reason without ignoring emotion and in fact embraces emotion as part of the overall compass we use to navigate through life. I rarely hear this kind of respect towards listeners or readers from environmentalists or scientific minds. Berry is organic. He has a well rounded completeness to him that I don’t observe in many people engaged in the large public discourses over humanity, Earth, the individual, and freedom and responsibility. Berry also does not try and define my life by his rules. This alone makes me want to cry just from relief.

In conclusion, this is a fantastic book, one long essay with many facets. This is the kind of stuff I think about and this is how I think about it, except Berry expresses it so much more clearly. His is a vital, prophetic voice in our nation, and I cannot emphasize enough that everyone should become familiar with his writing. Not only does he present urgent warnings as a naturalist (not as an environmentalist!) but his writing by its very style breaks with resounding thunder the frantic rationalizations of our media-soaked Molotov cocktail version of democratic discourse.
Anyway, some of the absolute best writing I have encountered in a very long time. His writing will prove timeless as well, because it discusses timeless themes: man, nature, woman, seeds, soil, seasons, thought, writing, imagination, freedom, responsibility, connection, and so much more.
Stunning writing. He always makes me cry, or lose my breath, or want to run down the street shouting quotes to the neighbors.
A short book, a big keeper.

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One thought on “Book review: Life is a Miracle

  1. I checked this one out of the library and renewed it a few times before finally giving it back. I need to just buy the thing! I did enjoy what I read, even if I didn’t get all the way through it. I love that, “resist classification!” Awesome! The one about health and death was awesome, too. So refreshing!

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