Every now and again you read something that you want to stick with you, not just in your mind but lived with your life. That is how I feel about most of Wendell Berry writings. I am not a big fan of poetry, but I’ve set myself to read more this year. I started with Wendell Berry’s book of poems called “The Mad Farmer Poems.”
There is at least one poem in this collection that I want to stick with me and help shape my life. “The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union.” Wendell goes on to list the things that a Mad Farmer, who is called “Mad” because they don’t buy into everything culture tells them, walks away from. I want to walk away from all this too. In walking away from one thing we walk towards something else. I want to walk towards Jesus with all my life and in order to do that I get to walk away from all that might harm our relationship.
I get to walk away, like the mad farmer from; power and money, power and secrecy, ambition and ignorance, genius and war. From these I’d like to, like the farmer walk silently away. I don’t need these things to clog up my heart and my mind.
Power corrupts or at least it can and often does. I follow Jesus; he didn’t use power to lord it over people, He used it to serve. Jesus used power to display true humility, not strength in a traditional sense. Power and privilege are used to serve the poor and not self. I will walk toward that end.
Money can be excellent, but it always wants us to have more. How much more? Just a little bit, no matter how much we have we need just a little more, and that chase never ends. I don’t want to chase money in an endless loop. I want to trust Jesus to provide what I need and walk a road of dependence on Him. Sometimes that includes money as a gift He gives, but the gift is not what is chased, relationships are.
I want to walk away from secrecy that hides weakness. We all have weakness even if we don’t all show it. I’ve been taught that in leadership you need to hide your weakness and not let those who follow you see your flaws; I reject that type of leadership. Instead I walk into the honesty and freedom that comes from being free to be myself, weakness and all. I don’t need to have any more secrets.
Ambition is yet one more thing I want to walk away from. I don’t need to be a somebody. I get to walk faithfully with Jesus. If much or little is made out of my name is of no difference to me. I like to be encouraged with what I do, but I don’t need it. I will keep being me. I want ambition to be replaced by steadfastness.
Ignorance is one of the hardest things to walk away from because we don’t know what we are ignorant toward. I find walking away from ignorance hard; it is something that we have to do with intention and humility. It takes a wiliness to be wrong all the time. I want to walk away from ignorance and into the light. I want to see all the evils that Jesus is bigger than, so I don’t inadvertently stumble into them.
Genius is never as smart as they claim to be. Genius can never know everything, as much as it tries. Instead just like ambition, I want to walk into steadfastness. I want years of practice in the practical sense instead of just the head knowledge and speculation about the future that is genius. Walking day to day allows the future to take care of itself, and in turn shapes it.
I want to walk away from the violence and destruction that war brings. Violence begets violence and wars show the endless cycle of this. Jesus showed us another way to fight. He defeated Satan, sin, and death, not with a fist and an army but non-violent resistance. I want to walk towards this end, I want to resist the evil in this world without using violence of war. I know that if I follow this out it will oftentimes look like I am losing, so be it. It looked like Jesus was losing before He rose from the dead.
This is not all that I want to be planted into my life from this poem. This is only a small section and one that I will read and re-read over and over as way of reminder. I want to walk toward friendship. I want to walk toward health in the community. I want to eat meals and have conversations that value each other over self.