Sunday, January 29, 2017

Happy Birthday, Ed Abbey! Many happy returns!

Today's the birthday of one of my favorite writers and professed reprobates, Ed Abbey. Since the normally reliable Writer's Almanac failed to mention it, I'm serving as a substitute.

I haven't read all of Abbey's work, including the source of one of his better quotations [below]. I believe, as our world gets more crowded and contentious, we all need to pay much more attention to this thought of his.  It comes from The Journey Home : Some Words in Defense of the American West (1977).

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

like this pair, Abbey's spirit soars above the lands that he loved
like this pair, Abbey's spirit soars above the lands that he loved
Photo by J. Harrington

At the moment, I can recall reading Abbey's Down the River, The Monkey Wrench Gang, Postcards from Ed [page 3 of linked index], and probably a couple I can't remember.

The contrast between Abbey's perspective and what we currently see come out of Washington, D.C.  is as stark as it gets. I much prefer Abbey's anarchy to T***p's wall. As noted in an online introduction:
"In a career spanning four decades, he [Abbey] wrote passionately in defense of the Southwest and its inhabitants, often mocking the mindless bureaucratic forces hell-bent on destroying it. 'Resist much, obey little,' from Walt Withman [sic], was this warrior's motto."
With models to follow, like Abbey, Whitman, Jack and Bobby Kennedy, even LBJ, we should be able to survive what's going on these days, and even begin to thrive again in the future. Our thriving, however, relies on major changes in our values and priorities. Again, Abbey tells us how with these wishes that say more about what it means to be human and, I hope, American, than our Gross Domestic Product ever can:

"Benedicto: May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you --- beyond that next turning of the canyon walls."
Edward Abbey 


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