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by Laura Parker Roerden

Some thoughts on health and wholeness from Wendell Berry (posted below) resonate right now, in a world where our division has become both a goal and a means.

What if as we isolate in response to COVID-19, we also find our way to wholeness: as individuals, as families, as communities, as a world? That sounds kinda like a riddle, right? Isolate to become whole? But it just feels like what this time is asking of us, or perhaps offering.

I see people generously posting their offers to help others; I see people turning inward toward their families with quality time. I see something broken, like a child finding a bird that has fallen from a nest, and others wanting to fix it. I think there is hope in that.

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“If we were lucky enough as children to be surrounded by grown-ups who loved us, then our sense of wholeness is not just the sense of completeness in ourselves but also is the sense of belonging to others and to our place; it is an unconscious awareness of community, of having in common. It may be that this double sense of singular integrity and of communal belonging is our personal standard of health for as long as we live. Anyhow, we seem to know instinctively that health is not divided.

Of course, growing up and growing older as fallen creatures in a fallen world can only instruct us painfully in division and disintegration. This is the stuff of consciousness and experience. But if our culture works in us as it should, then we do not age merely into disintegration and division, but that very experience begins our education, leading us into knowledge of wholeness and of holiness. I am describing here the story of Job, of Lazarus, of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, of Milton’s Samson, of King Lear. If our culture works in us as it should, our experience is balanced by education; we are led out of our lonely suffering and are made whole.” —Wendell Berry

Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She has served on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) of the New England Aquarium and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women in Sustainability. She lives on her fifth generation family farm in MA.

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