Commonplace Book #132

…we have also come to attribute to ends a moral importance that far outweighs that which we attribute to means.  As thought we have arrived in our minds at a new age of fantasy or magic, we expect ends not only to justify means, but to rectify them as well.  Once we have reached the desired end, we think, we will turn back to purify and consecrate the means.  Once the war that we are fighting for the sake of peace is won, then the generals will become saints, the burned children will proclaim in heaven that their suffering is well repaid, the poisoned forests and fields will turn green again.  Once we have peace, we say, o abundance or justice or truth or comfort, everything will be all right.  It is an old dream.

It is a vicious illusion.  For the discipline of ends is no discipline at all. The end is preserved in the means; a desirable end may perish forever in the wrong means. Hope lives in the means, not the end. Art does not survive in its revelations, or agriculture in its products, or craftsmanship in its artifacts, or civilization in its monuments, or faith in its relics.

Wendell Berry, “Discipline and Hope,” in A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural  (1970), p. 130-131.