Words ought to be a little wild, for they are an assault of thought upon the unthinking.
John Maynard Keynes
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In Standing by Words, Wendell Berry contends that “language is communal, and that its purpose is to tell the truth.” In an age of advertising, public relations, political spin, and outright lies, this seems naïve, but if it’s not true, we’re in more trouble than we think. So this section of the website explores the words we use to talk about nature and culture, the ways that we define (and avoid) our environmental responsibilities.
In Essays, I’ll share writing and talks exploring some of the themes of The Nature of College, including some ideas that didn’t make it into the book. An essay is, as we all know, a short literary composition on a subject. But if you look it up in the dictionary, you’ll see that it’s also “a testing or trial of the value or nature of a thing.” So these essays are my attempt to try out some ideas and see what they mean. I hope they’ll help you do the same.
In Dr. America, I’ll share some of the essays of my alter ego, Dr. America, the curator of the magnificent but wholly imaginary American Studies Museum. From 1997 to 2002, Dr. America examined the artifacts of American culture for National Public Radio station WCAL, exploring the meaning of things, the ways that our assumptions and values show up in our material culture.
In The Ecologician’s Dictionary, we get to play with the words that shape our world—and the fate of the earth—thinking twice about the ways that our language reveals our assumptions and values, and the ways that we can craft new language to express values and assumptions more appropriate for the ecological revolution of the 21st century.