A favorite poem of mine by Wendell Berry, “The Mad Farmer Manifesto,” describes what life looks like in the wake of the overwhelming events of Easter and its story of resurrection. Berry imagines how we would act differently if we truly believed in resurrection, truly believed that death had been resoundingly defeated by love. And almost every new behavior Berry recommends as part of his urging us to “practice resurrection” runs counter to common sense and conventional wisdom.
For my perpetual race to get more and be secure, to experience the payoff for my efforts as soon as possible, to be rewarded for good behavior and sound judgment, all such habitual ways of functioning Berry sees as no longer being valid when resurrection becomes the way the world works. For instance, he recommends working for nothing, investing in the millennium, expecting the world to end—and laughing about it. He supports approving all that I cannot understand. And he concludes by inviting me to be like a fox who makes “more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction.”
It sounds like a plan for foolishness at best, disaster at worst. But then, if death has been defeated, truly defeated as resurrection seems to claim, many of my ways of living no longer make sense because they are grounded in the conviction that death is coming, time is short, resources are scarce, and I need to live carefully and competitively, making only those tracks that are necessary and being sure that all of them head in the right direction.
I have no illusions about being able to completely change my life in the ways Berry envisions. But perhaps I could begin to practice resurrection, a bit at a time, and let it grow on me. The Easter story of resurrection is a powerfully radical shift in understanding how the world works. It means I may have been going about things all wrong.