At Peace And In Place

Today was one of those days when the words won’t come easy. I looked for help to Wendell Berry, my favorite poet, and found this:

In a time that breaks 
in cutting pieces all around,
when men, voiceless
against thing-ridden men,
set themselves on fire, it seems
too difficult and rare
to think of the life of a man
grown whole in the world,
at peace and in place.
But having thought of it
I am beyond the time
I might have sold my hands
or sold my voice and mind
to the arguments of power
that go blind against
what they would destroy.

Hidden between two descriptions of despair and worldly things, there’s a description of what a good, settled life might look like, “…to think of the life of a man / grown whole in the world / at peace and in place.” Everything in this poem revolves around these words.

Berry describes a peace and stillness that seems missing from busy, city life. To be “grown whole in the world, at peace and in place” takes time and patience, surely. It also takes a revision of purpose, a reorientation from a state of pursuit to a state of peace.

It isn’t usually for the young to be at peace and in place. People are moving; jobs are evolving; life is changing. Berry, though, suggests here that even thinking of this life helps to steady yourself against the things that would make you anxious. It’s a hopeful thing to believe, that some measure of this peace can be enjoyed before it is earned, if only it can be imagined.

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