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Wendell Berry and Zoom—Jeffrey Bilbro


In our last issue, psychologist Curt Thompson helped us understand why Zoom is so exhausting. This week, Jeffrey Bilbro summons two metaphors to help us see why it's so unsatisfying: tinned fruit and prosthetic limbs.


The fruit metaphor comes from C.S. Lewis: "Fruit has to be tinned if it is to be transported and has to lose thereby some of its good qualities. But one meets people who have actually learned to prefer the tinned fruit to the fresh.” How can we keep video chat from doing this to us?


Enter the prosthetic limb image from Wendell Berry's novel Remembering, a story where farmer Andy Catlett loses his right hand to a corn picker. As Berry writes:


His life had been deformed. His hand was gone, his right hand that had been his principal connection to the world, and the absence of it could not be repaired. The only remedy was to re-form his life around his loss, as a tree grows live wood over its scars. From the memory and a sort of foreknowledge of wholeness, after he had grown sick enough finally of his grieving over himself, he chose to heal.


Bilbro suggests that the discomfort of video chatting should remind us of what is deformed in both our society and our soul. We "choose to heal" by remembering that we were made for embodied connection. Let your next video chat be "a reminder of the ideal goods for which we yearn."


Read "Wendell Berry and Zoom" over at The Front Porch Republic. Follow up with Wendell Berry's remarkable short novel Remembering.

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