Most people who know me are familiar with my really bad habits. I chew my nails too often, even under threat of turpentine. I am too formal in all situations, no matter the occasion. Worst of all I am afraid of dominating conversation. No matter where I am or who I am talking to I never want to come off as a know it all. Probably not a good attribute for a news man.
Every so often though something in my personality just clicks and I can say everything I am feeling and know without worrying about annoying the people around me. It is what I call a rant. One of my favorite ranters is John Muir. He was the founder of the Sierra Club, which is today the largest environmental advocacy group in the United States.
Muir, like most people, had a lot to say about the world he was living in and he said it in a lot of different ways. He wrote letters, gave talks, wrote books, signed petitions, took hikes, preached to presidents and even hugged a few trees (please do not let the irony of my using John Muir as an example in the newspaper keep you from reading).
Two of my favorite Muir quotes are thus: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” and “On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death. … Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights. All is divine harmony.”
This may seem deep and cliche, which is easy to do in our cynical world. It is important to remember Muir lived at a time when the world was much more cynical than the one we live in today, and that did not keep him from making his voice heard.
Muir was a master at explaining his thoughts and beliefs. I can only hope to find the voice he gave to the natural world. To think one man helped inspire leaders to save Yosemite, Mammoth Caves and Yellowstone is enough to give pause.
More importantly it should give us the power to find such a voice inside ourselves. We live in a world with more problems than Muir could have ever conceived. In the past 100 years we have brought the natural world to place that can only be explained as Muir’s nightmare. But he is still with us in so many ways.
He is our nature guide to creating a cleaner and more sustainable society. His legacy should be our calling and with him in our memories we can make a world where our children can see us as we see John Muir.