Something That Won’t Compute

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

This poem has been on my mind for the last while. It’s by Wendell Berry, and is excepted from “Manifesto,” a poem from the Mad Farmer Liberation Front. Every stanza in it releases me to live life more fully. It names the evil I’m surrounded by, it calls forth my humanity, it reminds me that I’m not a machine, but a creature like the fox.

I was especially thinking about this poem on Election Day. Today, I’m fasting, both from food and from voting. I may vote again one day, but I’ve refrained for a variety of reasons. However, re-reading this poem has reminded me that I don’t want to be predictable; I need to be more like the fox.

I recently celebrated a birthday and have decided to take the “Wendell Berry Mad Farmer Challenge” (my term):

Everyday do something that doesn’t compute.

I want to try for the next year, to do one thing a day that doesn’t compute and try to post it here. So, today on election day, I’m going to start. Here’s what I’m doing, taking a cue from WB (“Denounce the government and embrace the flag”):

I’m not going to vote, and I’m going to write a letter to a military service person in Afghanistan.


I am firmly pacifist and abhor the wars this country is involved in. Yet, in my pacifism, I often forget that the people fighting in the wars are actually people. They become issues, or lumped in to the policies of war-mongering that the government lives by. I can’t support anyone’s decision to join the military, to be willing to kill at the whim of a general or president. By writing a letter, I hope to remind whomever I write to, of his/her humanity and the humanity of the enemy.

Why this “won’t compute”

For a lot of people, choosing not to vote is either an act of apathy or an act of anger against a rotten system. I can identify with both of these to some extent. But I want my choice to abstain to be rooted in genuine compassion and action for what I do believe in: the Prince of Peace.

Maybe you’ll join me. What about your life doesn’t compute (in a good way)?

Pace e bene.

**Read my next post for Day 2 of the Wendell Berry Mad Farmer Challenge



  1. Libby · November 6, 2012

    Very thoughtful, Brian. I ended up deciding to vote, today, but your brother is still working on me! 🙂 I’ll be interested to read your “does not compute” acts this year.

    Lots of love,

  2. Pingback: Love Someone Who Does Not Deserve It « Restoring Shalom

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