A friend sent this article by Wendell Berry the other day and said it was worth the read, he is right. The article looks at how our insatiable desire for more not only has adverse effects on our lives and economy but also on our environment. This limitlessness that’s rooted in an Englightenment mentality of progress is not only unchristian but ultimately destructive. He says,
The problem with us is not only prodigal extravagance but also an assumed limitlessness. We have obscured the issue by refusing to see that limitlessness is a godly trait. We have insistently, and with relief, defined ourselves as animals or as higher animals.?? But to define ourselves as animals, given our specifically human powers and desires, is to define ourselves as limitless animalswhich of course is a contradiction in terms. Any definition is a limit, which is why the God of Exodus refuses to define Himself: I am that I am.??
And his point is that we do need limits, that this is the way things really work. He writes:
It is the artists, not the scientists, who have dealt unremittingly with the problem of limits. A painting, however large, must finally be bounded by a frame or a wall. A composer or playwright must reckon, at a minimum, with the capacity of an audience to sit still and pay attention. A story, once begun, must end somewhere within the limits of the writers and the readers memory. And of course the arts characteristically impose limits that are artificial: the five acts of a play, or the fourteen lines of a sonnet. Within these limits artists achieve elaborations of pattern, of sustaining relationships of parts with one another and with the whole, that may be astonishingly complex. And probably most of us can name a painting, a piece of music, a poem or play or story that still grows in meaning and remains fresh after many years of familiarity.
Read the rest of the article, he uses Militon and Christopher Marlowes Tragical History of Doctor Faustus to help make his point. it’s very thought provoking and well argued.
Faustian economics: Hell hath no limitsBy Wendell Berry (Harper’s Magazine).