Today a fascinating conversation (written) with one of my heroes, poet / farmer / ecologist / novelist / essayist Wendell Berry. The published interview dates back to the 8th November 2014. It was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of Regent College’s CRUX journal.
Here’s an excerpt. It reminds me of something David Steindl-Rast was saying about eternity and the present moment in a recent interview with Tami Simon. This section follows a quote from his novel 2004 published Hannah Coulter. That’s what Berry is thanking the interviewer for quoting.
“WB: Well, thank you. William Faulkner said pretty much the same thing, more briefly: The past is not past. My experience, that I suppose that comes from, is of living nearly all my life in the same place. I am very conscious—I’ve grown more conscious of it as I’ve grown older, and it’s very rich in my mind now—that every day I’m walking in the tracks and across the tracks of people I’ve loved, who are now up there on the hill in the graveyard. But they’re alive to me. It’s in the present that they live. This has caused me to think a lot about time, which, it seems to me, is as mysterious nearly as eternity. I think time verges off into eternity, when we are living actually in the present.
We live in the present only when we quit counting. If we start counting—the minutes, the hours, the days, the months, the years—we’re either living in the past, or we’re fantasizing—usually some horror story—about the future. It has amused me a lot in my dealings with scientists to argue that the present is uncountable. It has no duration . . . at all. If you get it down to nanoseconds, then there’s half a nanosecond. And then there’s half a half a nanosecond [laughs]. There isn’t any way you can measure it. If you start talking about it, it’s gone already. If I say “present,” it’s already past, you see. But if you’ve forgotten, if the thing you’re doing now makes you forget to count the time, it may be you’re in eternity: heaven or hell. But, anyway, those people of the past have a life. Mostly it survives by being remembered and loved, I think, and this is a very big thing in my life now. So that’s what I had on my mind. As Hannah ages, she realizes that her acquaintance among the dead has grown . . . and that happens [pause]…”
You’ll find the complete interview here.