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Wendell Berry


«Even the freest bird is bound to a certain climate.»Thus did poet Victor Hugo evoke the place of belonging, the “territory” that all living creatures need. Among human beings there are nomads and there are settled peoples, but the nomad still has a certain territory – for hunting, fishing, for subsistence. We would never say of the nomad, as we would of the exile, that he is “sans feu ni lieu” – that is, without a fire or place of his own. The nomad has rather a number of fires and a number of places, which he shares with others. In the passage that follows, Wendell Berry reminds us of the importance, even for those who are settled, of sharing that fire and those places.

«On the other hand, all creatures are territorial. Even the most far-flying sea birds have their own nesting places that belong to them in a sense, that they come back to, and think of as home. You need some means in the law to safeguard the sense of belonging, of being at home, and to grant people certain privileges, certain rights of self-determination, within their homelands. But the culture also needs to instruct people that they are not the absolute owners of anything, not even of themselves. The Indians, or some of them at least, had the idea that you have to hold yourself responsible to the seventh generation of your descendants. Well, it was once easier to imagine the seventh generation of your descendants than it is now, but it’s never been possible to know the seventh generation. What that requirement does is put you under the pressure and even the guidance of a mystery. You don’t know what’s going to happen, but you have to hold yourself responsible to the possibility that the human race will survive and will need the things you have.»

Appalachian Voices, Wendell Berry on sustainability, citizenship and becoming a navie,  December 2004.



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Jacques Dufresne's

The editor of L'Encyclopédie de L'Agora and well known newspaper chronicler and philosopher, analyses actuality through the looking glass of Belonging.
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