Fascinating Responsibility

When asked why his Kentucky farm – that land, that work and rhythm – was important for him, Wendell Berry replied: “The farm provides me fascination and responsibility.” It seems to me that those two words aren’t put together often enough.

Fascination speaks of the lure of a thing, the magic it offers. It’s a childish word, a word filled to the brim with joy. When you’re fascinated with something, you feel a bit lost in it, giddy even. We aren’t giddy enough in this oh-so serious world of ours.

But then there’s responsibility, an obligation. Being obliged might carry a heavy ring. It’s no good, for instance, for the soul to be obliged to another’s expectation. However, if our obligation is toward that same thing that fascinates us, that same something we can’t let loose and that (wonderful how this happens) same something that won’t let us loose, then this responsibility is noble. It’s what some people mean when they speak of a call.

We are responsible for something, somewhere – for someone. There are words we can (must) uniquely speak. Truths we must uniquely discover – and tell. There is land only we can love, children only we can father or mother.

It’s a holy thing to be fascinated by something. And it’s a holy thing to be responsible for something.

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