Senior Communication Major at Spring Arbor University
According to author Wendell Berry, America is suffering from placelessness. Many Americans are antsy to leave their hometowns and explore the world, or consistently move from place to place living a transient lifestyle. This mindset can be a positive thing, but can also paint a negative picture of getting rooted in a community long-term and breed discontent. Berry argues that one contributing factor to this problem is that universities are teaching students that the best life is an exciting, successful lifestyle away from home, instead of training them to be responsible members in a community.
Yesterday, Spring Arbor University took a day off from classes to attend a Focus Series on what it means to be a human. Dr. Baker and Dr. Bilbro lectured during a morning session about Wendell Berry’s philosophy of place and education. They argued we have to begin telling the right stories, because stories deeply affect our imaginations and affections. Typical “American dream” stories nurture a restless mindset, and we need to be cognizant of that.
Berry draws the important distinction between two different kinds of people, boomers and stickers. Boomers are mobile, always willing to leave if a better opportunity arises. Stickers tend to be more stationary, desiring to grow roots in a community and meet needs there. According to Berry, the goal is to move from a boomer attitude, which inhabits much of the American psyche, to a sticker attitude. What if we stopped asking primarily, “What do I want?” and started asking a community, “What do you need?” However, people are not simple enough to categorize purely in one category or the other. It is possible to be in a transient, mobile phase of life and have a sticker attitude. According to Dr. Bilbro and Dr. Baker, it all turns on our affections and attitudes.
As a senior in college, this talk was extremely thought provoking and applicable. The last four years, I have become rooted in a temporary community, and am about to be uprooted and move on to my next step. Do I want to have a boomer attitude, desiring to find the best way of life for myself, no matter where that is? Or do I want to move to a community, get involved, and stay for the long haul? And if so, how do I choose that community?
My favorite statement from their presentation is, “Education is an enablement to serve.” This reminds me that I am not entitled to anything, but instead, I have the opportunity to plug in to a community and use my skills and abilities to bless what is already happening there. In the next few years, I may continue to live a mobile lifestyle, perhaps even going abroad for a season. However, my long-term goal is to become a sticker, rooted in a community to be most effective.
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Mendes, G. (August 5, 2014). Wendell Berry [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://science.kqed.org/quest/2014/08/05/the-future-of-sustainable-food-qa-with-wendell-berry/