Yesterday I got the chance to hear Wendell Berry speak here in Washington. It was a real treat (except for the INSANE heat of the room; I know he's all for sustainability, but that doesn't mean in a totally packed room on a warm and humid day we shouldn't at least open the doors for some air circulation, let alone turn the fan on!)
It put me in mind of posting here about his book of essays Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community. His stories and poetry have often displayed a strong sense of fidelity--both within marriage and to a larger community. He explores these themes poetically in his book of short stories Watch With Me about Tol Proudfoot and Miss Minnie (my favorite of his fiction), and again in the essays in this wonderful book.
Here's a quote. (Now buy the book!)
Lovers must not, like usurers, live for themselves alone. They must finally turn from their gaze at one another back toward the community. If they had only themselves to consider, lovers would not need to marry, but they must think of others and of other things. They say their vows to the community as much as to one another, and the community gathers around them to hear and to wish them well, on their behalf and its own. It gathers around them because it understands how necessary, how joyful, and how fearful this joining is. These lovers, pledging themselves to one another "until death," are giving themselves away, and they are joined by this as no law or contract could join them. Lovers, then, "die" into their union with one another as a soul "dies" into its union with God. And so here, at the very heart of community life, we find not something to sell as in the public market but this momentous giving. If the community cannot protect this giving, it can protect nothing.
(Painting by Harlan Hubbard, the artist who's work often graces the covers of Berry's books.)