by Steve Krout
July 17, 2020
By Wendell Berry
How fine to have a radio
and beautiful music playing
while I sit at rest in the evening.
How fine to hear through the music
the cries of wild geese on the river.
Beneath the sound of Tom Waits crooning from my record player, I could hear one of our goats bleating outside. I glanced out the window and noticed Peanut trying to get the attention of a passerby. It often seems like he expects a tasty treat from anyone that has the privilege of walking near him. I smiled as I thought, “I have something in common with a goat!”
Life is filled with little moments like these that cause us to be happy. In another short poem titled Why, Berry writes of happiness:
Why all the embarrassment
about being happy?
Sometimes I’m as happy
as a sleeping dog,
and for the same reasons,
and for others.
A person can easily feel embarrassed, perhaps even guilty, for being happy while there is so much suffering and turmoil in the world. But we cannot live a life of caring for others if we do not care for ourselves as well. We should take pleasure in those things that give us life: a song, a baseball game, a glass of wine with a loved one.
Beyond happiness, which comes and goes, Jesus offers us a joy that lasts. This joy comes from being in relationship with the one who knows us on the deepest level and desires our highest good. Bono, of the band U2, once said, “Joy is an act defiance.” Its an act of defiance against the many evils and injustices of the world.
Listen! and Why originally appeared in Given (2005). Both also appear in New Collected Poems (2012).
Wendell Berry was born in Henry County, KY on August 5, 1934. He is a writer, farmer, and environmentalist. In 2015, Berry became the first living writer to be inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame. His notable works include The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (1977), Sabbaths: Poems (1987), and Jayber Crow (2000).