"I only went out for a walk and finally
concluded to stay out till sundown,
for going out, I found, was really going
in." ~John Muir
Join us this Monday 4/18 for a screening of John
Muir in the New World , a
magnificent, spiritual, and awe-inspiring film
about Muir, the father of the
environmental movement and the founder of the
Sierra Club, the oldest and
largest grassroots conservation organization in
the United States.
April 18 PBS 9:00 pm, check your local listings.
watch a preview
(Sorry, if you are not in the USA, just enjoy
the written selections.)
By Anna Maria Gillis
It’s on his journey of scientific inquiry, first
to the Gulf and in his first
summer in the Sierra Nevada, that Muir’s
religious thinking evolves, and he
leaves much of his Calvinist background
behind, says Worster.
A man of his time, Muir was raised with the view
from Genesis that God has
given man dominion over all of nature. But in A
Thousand-Mile Walk to the
Gulf, based on his journals from that period
published posthumously in
1916, Muir adopts a humbler view: “The world, we
are told, was made
especially for man—a presumption not supported by all the
numerous class of men are painfully astonished whenever they find
living or dead, in all God’s universe, which they cannot eat or
render in some
way what they call useful to themselves.” He goes on to say,
“From the dust
of the earth, from the common elementary fund, the Creator
has made Homo
sapiens. From the same material he has made every other
noxious and insignificant to us. They are earth-born
companions and our
fellow mortals. The fearfully good, the orthodox, of this
patchwork of modern civilization cry ‘Heresy’ on every one whose
sympathies reach a single hair’s breadth beyond the boundary epidermis of
our own species.”
Other nineteenth-century thinkers—Humboldt,
Ruskin—looked at nature for inspiration, and Muir knew
their work, but
Muir went further. He may be regarded, says Worster in an
a religious prophet,” one whose religion was Nature.
John Muir quotes:
"When we try to pick out
anything by itself, we find it hitched to
everything else in the
"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places
to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and
"Most people are on the world, not in it--
having no conscious sympathy or
relationship to anything about them--
undiffused seporate, and rigidly alone
like marbles of polished stone,
touching but separate. "
"How narrow we selfish conceited creatures are in our sympathies! How
blind to the rights of all the rest of creation!"
"Yet how hard most people work for mere dust and ashes and care, taking
no thought of growing in knowledge and grace, never having time to get in
sight of their own ignorance."
"Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans
understand and envision their relationships with the natural world," writes
Holmes. Muir was noted for being an ecological thinker, political
spokesman, and religious prophet, whose writings became a personal guide
into nature for countless individuals, making his name "almost ubiquitous"
the modern environmental consciousness. According to author William
Anderson, Muir exemplified "the archetype of our oneness with the
earth", while biographer Donald Worster says he understood his mission
to be, "Saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism."
more complete biography: