Editor's note: This article will appear in the September/October 2021 issue of Sojourners. Subscribe now!
AMAZON FOUNDER JEFF BEZOS arrived at writer Wendell Berry’s home in Kentucky the same way he arrives anywhere on earth: by drone, covered in cardboard. When he stepped out of the large box, the two men shook hands and exchanged gifts. Bezos gave Berry a single octopus tentacle wrapped in burlap. Berry offered Bezos a gooseberry coated in local honey. Both quietly hoped the exchange was a step forward for modern masculinity. It wasn’t.
Bezos: This is a fabulous berry, Wendell. Do you live off the food you farm? Or book sales?
Berry: Well, tax-evading corporate conglomerates have made it harder for authors to earn a sustainable living, but I’m happy with my lifestyle.
Bezos: So, you have other investments?
Berry: I invest in sequoias and in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years.
Bezos: I LOVE hummus. But I’m not familiar with Sequoia. Has their stock gone public?
Berry: They are trees. Very old trees.
Berry: I also invest during the summer by doing a fair amount of canning.
Bezos: Ah, yes, I can people all the time. People who unionize. Workers who don’t like to wear diapers or pee in empty water bottles—
Berry: I was actually talking about peaches and sauerkraut.
Bezos: Of course, of course! I’ll be eating that sort of astronaut food on my rocket ship. It’s also very possible that I’ll be drinking my own piss—filtered into electrolyte-rich water, of course. I’m hoping this’ll help me connect with my employees.
Berry: Mr. Beelzebub—
Bezos: It’s “Bezos,” not “Beelzebub”—a common mistake.
Berry: Apologies! So, you’re going to outer space to connect with your underpaid and overworked employees?
Bezos: Well, that’s not the only reason. I’m going because it’s been a dream of mine since I was a child and because space helmets fit so easily over my moist, reflective scalp. But mainly, I’m going out there to find myself.
Berry: I don’t really try to find myself. I try to lose myself.
Bezos: Oh, I hate losing.
Berry: I have lost myself to the love of one woman and to the peace of the wild things. I have lost parts of myself so that I could become something less singular and more connected to the whole. That’s why I still use a composting toilet. The poetry of it. That and the fertility of the soil.
Bezos: Wendell, I never thought we’d spend so much time talking about going to the restroom.
Berry: We don’t have many other things in common, Mr. Buzz Lightyear.
Bezos: That’s not my name.
Berry: Sorry, sorry. Mr. Buzzard, please continue.
Bezos: IT’S “BEZOS,” and I’m starting to think you’re messing up my name on purpose. I expected more from a wordsmith. You may not realize this, but we’re actually both in the business of books. Amazon started out as a book-selling platform, ya know.
Berry: Have you ever read any of my books, Jeff?
Bezos: Yes. I’ve actually read Where the Wild Things Are cover-to-cover.
Berry: Gotcha. To be honest, when I received your assistant’s letter, I thought I was meeting an environmentalist leader from Brazil to discuss the dangers of the world’s shrinking carbon sink.
Bezos: I’m glad you brought this up. I wasn’t gonna mention it, but given that you don’t have a dishwasher, a larger sink really would be useful. I’ll have one sent to you.
Berry: I’m talking about the Amazon rainforest.
Bezos: Right, right, right. Of course. It’s probably best if I head out now.
Berry: Well then, Jeff, some parting words to help guide your journey home: “Be like the fox, who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction.”
Bezos: Sorry, Wendell, but that might take more than two business days.