“An Entrance to the Woods” by Wendell Berry

I think the takeaway from this essay is that to better understand one’s self he has to get outside himself. Nature is perhaps one of the most common  methods of doing this. I think every essay does this to one extent or another. Virginia Woolf and Annie Dillard both did it with a moth, and in this essay Berry does it with nature as a whole. I would say that made-man things are more difficult to use as a body to possess in order to get outside one’s self and thus understand one’s self, but oh what’s his name? the guy who wrote an essay about Japanese architecture and shadows, yes I think he wrote something called “In Praise of Shadows” or something to that effect. Hold on one moment. Yes, that’s the title exactly and the man’s name is Junichiro Tanizaki. At any rate, he was able to better understand the self quite well through his careful look at his culture juxtaposed next to our western culture (although I don’t want to say our, because I am finding that I sympathize with many more eastern ideas than “my or our” western ones). At any rate, Berry manages to somewhat escape the self through nature, just like any other essayist does through their medium. When we are able to drop our bodies and see that body from and self from the outside (which I concede is actually impossible, but, hey, we can get pretty close), when we are able to do that we manage to come up with insight, which is funny because it’s more of an outsight, if you will. One insight that I found particularly lucid was this gem: “And so, coming here [into nature], what I have done is strip away the human facade that usually stands between me and the universe, and I see more clearly where I am.” He is particularly saying that nature is what civilization is encased in, and we sometimes forget that nature is the true substance, that wilderness is the true substance of our environment. Ultimately these insights arise from the ability to see outside oneself. But let’s be honest; this doesn’t sound very well thought out, and I think I am approaching an idea, or whatever the opposite of an idea is (darkness?), but that’s what a journal is for. Right? It’s for approaching truths and teasing them out. I think journals are where the real essaying takes place and the “essay” is just a refinement of the journal, something that has been doctored up to make it more presentable for public consumption, which I am alright with, and which I prefer, because I’d rather not read someone else’s dribble, although dribble has its place.