An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of October 31, 2010
issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

  WENDELL BERRY & THE MAYA

Eric in New York sent an essay by Wendell Berry, a much respected professor, writer and farmer in Kentucky. In the essay Berry describes his agrarian economic perspective this way:

"I would put nature first, the economies of land use second, the manufacturing economy third, and the consumer economy fourth."

You can see the wisdom in this. Since all things humans need derive from Nature, Nature's welfare should be humanity's first concern. More than anything, manufacturing and consumption should reflect what Nature sustainably can provide. Moreover, some resources, such as clean water and rich agricultural soil, should be protected as priceless.

Today's dominant economies practice exactly the opposite of this wisdom. Today Nature is destroyed by economies geared to provide what people want, not what they necessarily need, and everything has a price. And often that price is way out of line with the resource's actual value.

Wendell Berry states his wisdom clearly and artfully, like many others, yet this wisdom goes unused. For every person enlightened and changed by lucid thought, ten thousand others just want more, more, more.

Can anything be done to cause the generous, life- saving messages of Wendell Berry and others to take root in today's world?

Most of my life I haven't thought so. However, living among the Maya, now I'm starting to wonder. The reason is that every day I see how a "basic assumption about life" profoundly affects everyday behavior.

For example, Maya society is rooted in a basic assumption about proper human interactions that is completely different to what motivates us Northerners. To the Maya, nothing is more important than solidarity with family, friends and community. We Northerners say we believe in those things, but you know how we let our families split up, or friends drift away, and our communities decay as individually we work very hard for money and status, or at least for conformity with those around us.

So, is it possible that one or more changes in basic assumptions about how humans should interact could cause the philosophies of Wendell Berry and the Maya to become more attractive to humanity in general? Could such a paradigm shift save Life on Earth?

Maybe. Such changes in basic assumptions occur all the time. For example, the belief system of the old farmers I knew in rural/small-town Kentucky back in the 1950s was more like today's Mayas' than that of today's rural Kentuckians. During my 63 years of living I've witnessed a profound cultural paradigm shift take place in rural/small-town Kentucky. I think that the messages of TV mainly caused it. Maybe heightened awareness arising from the Internet will engender the next big change.

If such a profound change happened once, maybe it can happen again. And maybe this time the change will trend toward the wisdom of Wendell Berry and the Maya, not against. Facebook Icon