I’m off to Yosemite National Park in May to lead another volunteer adventure with my fav nonprofit org Conservation Volunteers International Program. Perhaps the most important figure in U.S. National Park history is John Muir and knowing something of his background has generated some musings about nature’s gospel.
John Muir’s story is rather fascinating and I wonder how his life might have been different if his father did not beat him into memorizing the entire Bible (he had 3/4 of the Old Testament and the entire New Testament memorized by age 11). He maintained that God is revealed through nature, so presumably kept the distinction between Creator and created. Having a keen sense of nature’s beauty and majesty, Muir was quite eloquent when reflecting on the grandeur of nature. And, he was considerably ahead of his time in advocating for responsible stewardship of nature, a discipline that remains a challenge despite all the science to support reasons why we must protect wilderness areas and promote clean water and energy while preserving the human natural habitat.
All the wild world is beautiful, and it matters but little where we go, to highlands or lowlands, woods or plains, on the sea or land or down among the crystals of waves or high in a balloon in the sky; through all the climates, hot or cold, storms and calms, everywhere and always we are in God’s eternal beauty and love. So universally true is this, the spot where we chance to be always seems the best.
No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening – still all is Beauty!
Man must be made conscious of his origin as a child of Nature. Brought into right relationship with the wilderness he would see that he was not a separate entity endowed with a divine right to subdue his fellow creatures and destroy the common heritage, but rather an integral part of a harmonious whole. He would see that his appropriation of earth’s resources beyond his personal needs would only bring imbalance and beget ultimate loss and poverty for all.
– Sierra Club (which Muir co-founded)