The Real Work

by Wendell Berry


Original Language English

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

-- from Standing by Words: Essays, by Wendell Berry

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Ooh, I just like this, don't you? As I get older and encounter more of the world and more of myself, I grow increasingly wary of answers. It's the questions that awaken the soul. Certainty is the end of growth.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

Berry is reminding us that struggle and confusion -- and wonder! -- are signs that we are on a good path, that we are paying attention, that we are still seeking and discovering, that we are alive. The scariest people are those who've grown tired of questions and so brutalize the world with simple answers.


Okay, a poetic confession: This was not originally a poem in verse. I did a bit of research and found that this is actually an excerpt from one of Wendell Berry's essays that someone later versified. It's been circulating as a poem ever since. I guess you can't trap a good poet in prose for long. My apologies to the poetry purists out there.


Now, let's discover a new path through this magical, unknown day...



Recommended Books: Wendell Berry

The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982 Selected Poems of Wendell Berry Given: Poems A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 The Mad Farmer Poems
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The Real Work