Within minutes my 115-mile walk through the desert hills becomes a thing apart, a disjunct reality on the far side of a bottomless abyss, immediately beyond physical recollection.But it's all still there in my heart and soul. The walk, the hills, the sky, the solitary pain and pleasure-they will grow larger, sweeter, lovelier in the days to come, like a treasure found and then, voluntarily, surrendered. Returned to the mountains with my blessing. It leaves a golden glowing on the mind.
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The majority of American writers today have chosen passive non-resistance to things as they are, producing sloughs of poetry about their personal angst and anomie, cascades of short stories and rivers of novels obsessed with the nuances of domestic relationships - suburban hanky-panky - chic boutique shopping mall literary soap opera. When they do speak out on matters of controversy they attack not the evils of our time but fellow writers who may insist on complaining.
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Yes, there are plenty of heroes and heroines everywhere you look. They are not famous people. They are generally obscure and modest people doing useful work, keeping their families together and taking an active part in the health of their communities, opposing what is evil (in one way or another) and defending what is good. Heroes do not want power over others.
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How strange and wonderful is our home, our earth, with its swirling vaporous atmosphere, its flowing and frozen liquids, its trembling plants, its creeping, crawling, climbing creatures, the croaking things with wings that hang on rocks and soar through the fog, the furry grass, the scaly seas.
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May your rivers flow without end... 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 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.
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Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic....So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space...
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All men are brothers, we like to say, half-wishing sometimes in secret it were not true. But perhaps it is true. And is the evolutionary line from protozoan to Spinoza any less certain? That also may be true. We are obliged, therefore, to spread the news, painful and bitter though it may be for some to hear, that all living things on earth are kindred.
Be a half-assed crusader, a part-time fanatic. Don't worry to much about the fate of the world. Saving the world is only a hobby. Get out there and enjoy the world, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, husbands wives; climb mountains, run rivers, get drunk, do whatever you want to do while you can, before it's too late.
May your trails be dim, lonesome, stony, narrow, winding and only slightly uphill. May the wind bring rain for the slickrock potholes fourteen miles on the other side of yonder blue ridge. May God's dog serenade your campfire, may the rattlesnake and the screech owl amuse your reverie, may the Great Sun dazzle your eyes by day and the Great Bear watch over you by night.
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There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who's always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated. ... To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me.
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Why can't we simply borrow what is useful to us from Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, especially Zen, as we borrow from Christianity, science, American Indian traditions and world literature in general, including philosophy, and let the rest go hang? Borrow what we need but rely principally upon our own senses, common sense and daily living experience.
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Perhaps I shouldn't call it shit. That's a bit crude. I don't really despise Christianity or even the Roman Church, and certainly not the incontrovertible glory of the Middle Ages. What I do despise is the contemporary inclination to flop to the knees and crawl back into the past, to shy from what seem like impossible problems in order to bury the head, asshole aloft and twitching, in the Sands of Time. Cowardice, I calls it. Illusion-seeking. Womb-crawling. And treason. Desertion in the face of the enemy. Strong words indeed. But I've always been rather a blunt, tough, plain-spoken type...
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In this respect the differences between the USA and the USSR are those of evangelical dinosaurs competing for domination on one small planet: the first deifies Jesus Christ, the other Karl Marx. Neither has much practical interest in what those two sincere and hard-working fellows actually preached.
I suppose each of us has his own fantasy of how he wants to die. I would like to go out in a blaze of glory, myself, or maybe simply disappear someday, far out in the heart of the wilderness I love, all by myself, alone with the Universe and whatever God may happen to be looking on. Disappear - and never return. That's my fantasy.
A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.
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Most every charge you level at American capitalism applies with equal force to communism, with this nice difference, that the Reds make no pretense at such frivolities as civil liberties or environmentalism. The differences in degree are so great that they result in a radical difference in kind.
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My loyalties will not be bound by national borders, or confined in time by one nation's history, or limited in the spiritual dimension by one language and culture. I pledge my allegiance to the damned human race, and my everlasting love to the green hills of Earth, and my intimations of glory to the singing stars, to the very end of space and time.
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To make the distinction unmistakably clear: Civilization is the vital force in human history; culture is that inert mass of institutions and organizations which accumulate around and tend to drag down the advance of life; Civilization is Giordano Bruno facing death by fire; culture is the Cardinal Bellarmino, after ten years of inquisition, sending Bruno to the stake in the Campo di Fiori...
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I doubt that my sense of personal freedom is any stronger than anybody else's. I'm happy to respect authority when it's genuine authority, based on moral or intellectual or even technical superiority. I'm eager to follow a hero if we can find one. But I tend to resist or evade any kind of authority based merely on the power to coerce. Government, for example. The Army tried to train us to salute the uniform, not the man. Failed. I will salute the man, maybe, if I think he's worthy of it, but I don't salute uniforms anymore.
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They cannot see that growth for the sake of growth is a cancerous madness, that Phoenix and Albuquerque will not be better cities to live in when their populations are doubled again and again. They would never understand that an economic system which can only expand or expire must be false to all that is human.
In any nation but the USA, it is taken for granted that a man of distinction, ability, wealth or power will keep a mistress and a few girlfriends on the side. Only in America, still suffering from its grotesque, hypocritical Puritan heritage, do we persist in attempting to deny and repeal a million years of basic primate biology.
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