the arts of preserving the formal integrity of the things we receive as wholes already formed

We can, to be sure, see parts and so believe in them. But there has always been a higher seeing that informs us that parts, in themselves, are of no worth. Genesis is right: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The phrase “be alone” is a contradiction in terms. A brain alone is a dead brain. A man alone is a dead man.

…A proper attention to language, moreover, informs us that the Greek root of “anatomy” means “dissection,” and that of “analysis” means “to undo.” …I suppose that the nearest antonym to both is a word we borrow directly from the Greek: poiesis, making or creation, which suggests that the work of the poet, the composer or maker, is the necessary opposite to that of the analyst and the anatomist. Some scientists, I think, are in this sense poets.

But we appear to be deficient in learning or teaching a competent concern for the way that parts are joined. We certainly are not learning or teaching adequately the arts of forming parts into wholes, or the arts of preserving the formal integrity of the things we receive as wholes already formed.

…My premise is that there is a scale of work at which our minds are as effective and even as harmless as they ought to be, at which we can be fully responsible for consequences and there are no catastrophic surprises. But such a possibility does not excite us.

What excites us is some sort of technological revolution. …But these revolutions—all with something to sell that the people or their government “must” buy—are mere episodes of the …Industrial Revolution …[which has always existed] to market its products, regardless of their usefulness or their effects, at the highest possible profit.

…Scared for health, afraid of death, bored, dissatisfied, vengeful, greedy, ignorant, and gullible—these are the qualities of the ideal consumer. Can we imagine a way of education that would turn passive consumers into active and informed critics, capable of using their own minds in their own defense? It will not be the purely technical education-for-employment now advocated by the most influential “educators” and “leaders.”

We have good technical or specialized criticism: A given thing is either a good specimen of its kind or it is not. A valid general criticism would measure work against its context. The health of the context—the body, the community, the ecosystem—would reveal the health of the work.

Our Only World by Wendell Berry (4-14).

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