Wendell Berry wrote a piece called Damage/Healing following his experience of an improvement on a section of his farm. He had a great vision of how something could be better – instead he did great harm, scarring his land for years to come. Because he had only intended his action for Good, the Harm (referred to here as “such troubles) he caused was quite startling. He writes about it and in his writing you can witness the evolution of his thinking:
It used to be that I could think of art as a refuge from such troubles. From the imperfections of life, one could take refuge in the perfections of art. One could read a good poem-or better, write one.
Art was what was truly permanent, therefore what truly mattered. The rest was “but a spume that plays/Upon a ghostly paradigm of things.”
I am no longer able to think that way. That is because I now live in my subject. My subject is my place in the world, and I live in my place.
There is a sense in which I no longer “go to work.” If I live in my place, which is my subject, than I am “at” my work even when I am not working. It is “my” work because I cannot escape it.
From Damage, (iii) by Wendall Berry
At The Table we gather in weekly Kitchen Tables so that we might reflect on how we are doing good, attempting to do no harm and staying in love with God. Though we are not all writers like Wendall Berry, our reflections out loud to each other mirror his way of “living in my subject.” One might say that through our weekly sharing we abide in God’s love. It is that simple and that complex.