In 2010, when I was a junior at Dartmouth, I discovered an author named Wendell Berry through an essay entitled “The Work of Local Culture.” In that essay, Berry describes the economic, ecological, and cultural devastation wrought by a centralized society that sees its country places and small towns as existing merely as markets for consumer goods and sources of raw material. In Berry’s portrait of the human environment degraded by the market society, I recognized my own Middle American hometown, gradually being hollowed out by consumerism. Moreover, as a fugitive from that “diminished country,” I found that I was part of the problem. Berry writes, “As the children depart, generation after generation, the place loses its memory of itself, which is its history and its culture.”
Convinced that the failure of local communities imposed an enormous human cost, I wanted to stop being part of the problem. For me, this meant enacting the “theme of return” that Berry sees as central in Scripture, Shakespeare, and other fonts of the Western imagination: “The parable of the Prodigal Son is prepared for by such Old Testament stories as that of Jacob, who errs, wanders, returns, is forgiven, and takes his place in the family lineage.” Double-minded as always, it took several years of half measures to make my return. (He may have eaten husks with the swine, but even the prodigal never studied law.) In 2014, seven years gone, I returned to Murfreesboro, took my place in the family business, and set about tending my roots.
As someone with a hundred musings, a dozen intentions, and a fair bit of “reading-on-the-subject” for every meaningful action taken, it’s natural that I’ve continued to think about place, identity, and rootedness. This site is one fruit of those thoughts, an effort to tie my virtual presence to place: to contextualize it and integrate it with my embodied life. I have an address with walls of my own, not some preformed profile in a digital tenement house.
Currently, I don’t plan to do much here, but having friends and acquaintances from all over, I needed someplace they could find me. I may post a little writing, but I’m skeptical of blogging. I have nothing to say of any urgency. It’s my hope that this move will figure in some microscopic way into the renewal of Murfreesboro and other places like it, each with its own local culture to be rediscovered and restored. I follow Berry in believing that if these resurrections are to be accomplished, it will be “by the ancient rule of neighborliness, by the love of precious things, and by the wish to be at home.” All are practiced here.