After the recent federal election, I thought of Wendell Berry’s analysis of life in its simplest form and his corresponding analysis of how a community defines itself. Berry suggests a set of questions that can frame what he calls “Learning Days”:
- How does a community amuse itself? What kinds of theatre, dance, music, visual art, book groups, bridge clubs, bowling leagues, folk art, recreation, sports and festivals does a community use to please and divert itself throughout the year?
- How does a community console itself? How does it grieve and deal with loss, death, hard time, disappointments and conflict? How does it bring healing when people sustain injury or are hurting?
- How does a community educate itself? Not just in its schools but in its workplaces, churches, businesses and celebrations? How does a community use acts of amusement and consolation to learn? How does it use individuals with inventive ways of learning and teaching?
These questions lead me to ask how do we define ourselves? Is it the current national political leader? Is it the current national majority party? Or is it our personal and social values? Our knowledge, skills and dispositions? Our passion and compassion? Our ability to critically think, work well with others and make the right decisions for the common good?
Now seems a good time to consider just how we choose to define ourselves as we answer these and other questions to give us to courage to deepen and broaden our commitments to community and personal development.