How to face big problems


In an interview with Bill Moyers, Wendell Berry talked about trying to tackle big problems with easy answers. Berry said that we’re quick to impose our will on what troubles us–using brute force on what we think needs changing or fixing. A better approach? Ask questions, like: what do you need? To start with curiosity rather than certainty–this is one of the marks that describes ‘leadership from the bottom’ (a Berry phrase).

Moyers calls Berry a prophet of responsibility, putting a finger on the way such folk speak into life’s persistent questions. And by doing so, Moyers gives Berry space to tease out the idea that as difficult as some things look–and are–there are often ways to go at them that will yield favorable results.

But these ways are rarely quick, or easy. Berry says in this interview that there is in this a lesson for the young (and maybe not just the young), namely that patience is called for. He acknowledges that when things are bad–when they need changing or fixing, or when there is an emergency–patience is not really all that interesting. But it is, to his mind, essential.

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