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Virtues of RenewalWendell Berry's Sustainable Forms$
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Jeffrey Bilbro

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813176406

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813176406.001.0001

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(p.43) 2 Gratitude
Virtues of Renewal

Jeffrey Bilbro

University Press of Kentucky

Because our digital environments so often reflect our own desires and selves back to us, because they tell us that we are at the center of the world, they can foster the perception that solving global problems depends on our own efforts. Maybe we donate money to a nonprofit, but all the while we remain removed or “buffered,” to use Charles Taylor’s term, from the actual problem. Central to the good feelings we get from helping others is the idea of credit; we want credit for the good that we do—whether in the form of recognition, honor, or self-satisfaction. Rather than merely questioning our motives for helping others or critiquing our tendency to aggrandize ourselves, Berry’s poetry proposes an even more radical shift. Instead of seeking credit, Berry’s poems acknowledge his unpayable debts. If who I am is ultimately dependent on a life I have been given, then serving others is not a choice that redounds to my credit; it’s an obligation that defines my very self. Despite our industrial economy’s pressures to work harder and accrue more credit to our names, Berry’s sabbath poems model a way of dwelling gratefully in a gift economy.

Keywords:   gratitude, sabbath poems, Charles Taylor, poetry

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