I am not working in ignorance

The grapes of my body can only become wine
after the winemaker tramples me.
I surrender my spirit like grapes to his trampling
so my innermost heart can blaze and dance with joy.
Although the grapes go on weeping blood and sobbing
‘I cannot bear any more anguish,
any more cruelty’
the trampler stuffs cotton in his ears:  I am not working in ignorance.
You can deny me if you want, you have every excuse.
But it is I who am the Master of this Work.
And when through my Passion you reach perfection,
you will never be done praising my name.

~ Rumi

By Chance, Of Course

I enjoy this poem. It is a sweet little bit of invective. Berry may have faith in a creator God, who acts with a purpose or a plan, and that is not reflective of my own deepest sense, but I love his cranky reverence and his openness to being moved and broken by beauty. I appreciate his willingness to reside in a sort of ignorance (or, perhaps, in a second innocence, such as might arise out of the recognition of the limitations that reason encounters when trying to grasp and define the ineffable) without demanding that understanding arrive. And I like that though he recognizes this, he is fully engaged in the attempt to articulate and testify despite the final impossibility of tying it all up “with a ribbon”.

I suppose I feel that chance is one of the poetic elements that informs and enables the existence and emergence of the kosmos, but I would agree with Berry that the dry linearity of designating “chance” as the explanation-to-it-all results in a creation story that lacks dimension and seems to ignore or miss the holiness of the ordinary.

And anyway, what a rock-star way to close a poem!

Image from Bill Hubick Photography

From the February 2009 issue of Harper’s Magazine:

By Wendell Berry. His essay “Faustian Economics” appeared in the May issue of Harper’s Magazine.


“Chance” is a poor word among
the mazes of causes and effects, the last
stand of these all-explainers who,
backed up to the first and final Why,
reply, “By chance, of course!” As if
that tied up ignorance with a ribbon.
In the beginning something by chance
existed that would bang and by chance
it banged, obedient to the by-chance
previously existing laws of existence
and banging, from which the rest proceeds
by logic of cause and effect also
previously existing by chance? Well,
when all that happened who was there?
Did the chance that made the bang then make
the Bomb, and there was no choice, no help?
Prove to me that chance did ever
make a sycamore tree, a yellow-
throated warbler nesting and singing
high up among the white limbs
and the golden leaf-light, and a man
to love the tree, the bird, the song
his life long, and by his love to save
them, so far, from all the machines.
By chance? Prove it, then, and I
by chance will kiss your ass.