With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on. -- William Morris

Sunday, January 04, 2009

What is the Home in Our Modern World?

The following is written in the spirit of Peter Maurin's Easy Essays, and was inspired by Wendel Berry:
(My apologies for its rather melancholy tone...)

What is the Home in Our Modern World?

Is it a place of instruction,
Where the young mind first
Begins to ask the great questions,
And education, arising in the context
Of parental love, is a joy, a blessing, and a gift?
No, in our modern world, we leave education
To the state-determined specialists whose
Business of “knowledge” can only occur
Within the confines of a sterile, insipid
State-sanctioned classroom, and
Education is little more than
Another joyless commodity,
Bought and sold only
To ensure future
Buying and

Is it a place of nourishment,
Where the human body comes
To know itself in its relationship with
The Earth and land that brought forth its
Beautiful fruits from its generous plenitude?
No, in our modern world, we leave nourishment
To the grocer, the restaurateur, the manufacturer
Of foods, whose first interest is not the local,
Nor the individual, but the increase of profit,
Even if that means sacrificing the good of
Local community to expansionism, or
The good of nutrition to the chemical
Preservation of productivity, or
The good of the individual
To the mass anonymity
Of statistical data and
Sample groups.

Is it a place of work, where
The goodness, truth and beauty
Of human activity, ingenuity and
Effort finds fertile soil out of which
An authentic appreciation of the human
Participation in the artistic emergence of
The human family can become visible in all
It glorious, illuminative, redemptive splendor?
No, in our modern world, we leave our “work”
As far away as possible, secluding it and
Our 9 to 5 vestiges in a lifeless cubicle,
Incarcerated within the dungeons of
Corporate palaces, where we labor
Day after day, unhappily slaving
To buy time to get away from
The very work upon which
We have come to depend,
Which has reinvested the
Holiness of Sunday with
Monday’s lonely

Is it a place of hospitality,
Where strangers become friends,
And friends become family, where
Comfort is sought in the generous act
Of opening one’s door, one’s pantry, one’s
Very heart to those divine ambassadors left out in the
Cold margins, interrupting the systematic security of civility?
No, in our modern world, we leave “hospitality”
To the soup kitchens, the nursing homes,
The orphanages, the shelters, whose
Generosity has become our most
Efficient security system since
It really shelters us against
All those who would
Threaten our hard-
Earned financial

So what is the home in our Modern world?
Apparently, it has become a fall out
Shelter, a place to flee from the
Truth of education, the beauty
Of nourishment and the good
Of work, where all of us
Can finally escape from
The divine interruption
Of the marginalized
Poor who threaten
Our secure

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  • At 1/13/2009 7:14 PM, Blogger X-Cathedra said…


    A very nice piece. Reminds me of the song "Modern World" by Wolf Parade. The video seems to capture some inkling of what you describe:


    Pax Christi,

  • At 1/14/2009 11:04 AM, Blogger Brendan Sammon said…


    Thanks for the link, I enjoyed the song and video. Good to hear contemporary musicians taking a critical view of the very system that they depend upon.

    Hey - have you read any Wendel Berry? If not, he's a necessary addition to any theological library (even though he's not theologian - but all the more reason for that!)
    I would recommend his "The Unsettling of America" and "The Art of the Commonplace," among his many gems.


  • At 1/30/2009 2:42 PM, Blogger X-Cathedra said…


    Actually I had not heard of Berry up until right before your post. I read a chapter from my OT professor's book in which she reads Berry's writings on agriculture in the light of the "agrarian prophets" like Hosea. Just that little taste of him gave me the impression that he is indeed worthy of a careful read. Since then, I've heard his name tossed around here quite a bit.

    Pax Christi,


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