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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

The Loneliness of Wendell Berry

The rural prophet goes out of his way to pick fights with his natural allies.

Old,Farm,Gate,With,Stone,Chimney
(By Patrick Jennings/Shutterstock)

Everyone has heard the line from Pascal: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” And we assume he’s just offering us some good life advice. Put down the smartphone. Turn off the PlayStation. Spend more time with your thoughts. Drink a cup of tea, take a walk, etc.

The thing is, he doesn’t actually say, “in a room.” He says, “in his own room.” It’s an important distinction, as the rest of the passage makes clear: