Tuesday, December 6, 2016
The Most Peripatetic Man of the Western U.S.
John Muir was quite the peripatetic. This is a man who spent every waking hour of his day in the wilderness. He would go out for days at a time in the Yosemite Valley and reflect on his existence. Muir saw nature as his own home; he would write friends and described the Sierra as "God's mountain mansion."
**Above: Picture taken on the John Muir Trail, a 200+ mile trail through the Sierra Nevada Mountains**
Muir was a very spiritual man. He came from a very strict Christian household with a Father who was very adamant that his faith was the only faith that should be followed. So, ever since he was a young boy, Muir was drilled with Puritan like beliefs, however, once he came to America and began to spend time in Yosemite Valley, Muir changed his faith to reflect how he felt in nature. He still believed in God and Christianity, however, he believed that people are a lot less significant than most of them would like to believe. Muir saw people as no more important than an alligator.
Muir believed that to discover truth, he must turn to what he believed were the most accurate sources. His sources include the Bible, which his father made him read everyday to the point where he memorized almost the entire Old Testament and the entirety of the New Testament. The Bible was the only thing that his father considered a primary source, however, Muir found another primary source for understanding God: the Book of Nature. In nature, Muir believed that he was able to study the world that came straight from the hand of God, uncorrupted by civilization and domestication.
Muir's philosophy and world view rotated around his perceived dichotomy between civilization and nature. Muir began to stylize himself as a John the Baptist whose duty it was to immerse as many people as possible in a mountain baptism. John Muir felt the presence of the divine in nature. In nature, his writings conveyed feelings of ecstasy. Only in nature did Muir believe that spiritual enlightenment could occur.
**Left: John Muir**
***Above: A John Muir Quote***
For John Muir, nature was his home. He would use the term "home" as a metaphor for nature and for his attitude towards nature itself. Muir would use domestic adjectives and nouns when discussing his scientific findings in his writings while he roamed his landscape.
"the little purple plant, tended by its Maker, closed its petals, crouched low in its crevice of a home, and enjoyed the storm in safety."--John Muir from one of his various journals.
In his later years, Muir used his descriptions of the Yosemite Valley and Sierras for preservation efforts, which includes him making Yosemite into a protected National Park, in his later years.
John Muir passed away at the age of 71 in California Hospital, now known as California Hospital Medical Center. Even though he passed, his legacy still lives on. John Muir contributed to so much during his lifetime that some of his work is still present today, such as the Sierra Club, which helped establish a number of national parks after he died and today has over 2.4 million members. Muir has been called the patron saint of the American Wilderness, quite the title if you ask me. As a dreamer and activist, his eloquent words changed the way Americans saw their mountains, forests, seashores, and deserts. Muir exalted wild nature over human culture and civilization, believing that all life was sacred. The primary aim of John Muir's nature philosophy was to change human conceit, and in do this, Muir was believed to have moved past the Transcendentalism of Emerson to a "biocentric" perspective of the world. He achieved this by claiming nature as a conductor of divinity, and writing nature as being synonymous with God.
The legacy of John Muir will exist as long as humans have nature to preserve. Muir will live on through his writings, teachings, and establishments. He wrote numerous letters to his wife, the government and other important figures. He also wrote for magazines and news papers and science journals. He wrote books to help inspire humanity to leave civilization behind and get in touch with their wilder self. He established the Sierra Club and the second National Park. He has had several things named after him, including a 200+ mile long trail. John Muir will go down in history as one of the greatest naturalists of all time and also as an amazing philosopher and scientist (believe it or not, he discovered that Yosemite Valley was carved out by a giant glacier rather than an earthquake which was the popular theory of the time). John Muir truly was a great man.
If you would like to learn more about the John Muir Trail, check out this short documentary on the subject:
Links to the People's posts I commented on:
Link to my 1st installment: