Listening Post: Commence small

A festive Commencement by 2009 SUNY Potsdam grad Derek Pooley of Brewerton. Photo of the Day archive: Deidre Kelly photo.

Another academic year is moving toward Commencement (a more interesting term than Graduation, with its air of endings, rather than beginnings). So our current crop of interns is also commencing into the summerlands, leaving us once again to our own devices. 

At NCPR, we tend to load them up with public radio mugs and logo gear as a farewell. But Commencement is also a time to godspeed them with a little wisdom. Having little of my own on offer, I borrow (as I often do) from a better mind–Wendell Berry’s. Here are Ten Hopes, from a Commencement address he gave at The College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor in 1989.

  • Beware the justice of Nature.
  • Understand that there can be no successful human economy apart from Nature or in defiance of Nature.
  • Understand that no amount of education can overcome the innate limits of human intelligence and responsibility. We are not smart enough or conscious enough or alert enough to work responsibly on a gigantic scale.
  • In making things always bigger and more centralized, we make them both more vulnerable in themselves and more dangerous to everything else. Learn, therefore, to prefer small-scale elegance and generosity to large-scale greed, crudity, and glamour.
  • Make a home. Help to make a community. Be loyal to what you have made.
  • Put the interest of the community first.
  • Love your neighbors–not the neighbors you pick out, but the ones you have.
  • Love this miraculous world that we did not make, that is a gift to us.
  • As far as you are able make your lives dependent upon your local place, neighborhood, and household–which thrive by care and generosity–and independent of the industrial economy, which thrives by damage.
  • Find work, if you can, that does no damage. Enjoy your work. Work well.


5 Comments on “Listening Post: Commence small”

  1. Sunshine says:

    Oh Dale, two favs of mine own. My daughter-in-law graduated from COA as did my niece. DIL works there for Sea Grant.
    Wendell Berry is so wise…I love reading his writings.
    Thanks for the share.

  2. Christine says:

    What a good read that was! I read it twice for good measure.

  3. Bruce Post says:

    Dale: I just saw your posting this morning. What a wonderful way to start the day. Wendell Berry is a prophet, and as with the true prophets we read in the Hebrew Testament, we dismiss him at our peril.

  4. Pete Klein says:

    After being told what to think and do for 12, 16 years and more, wisdom gets to be a bit of a bore when all you want is get out of there.

  5. Dale Hobson says:


    People will keep telling you what to think and do right up until you go into the ground. It’s all in who you listen to.


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