Abbey, E. Down the River. Penguin Books: NY, NY. 1982.
(3) ..[my essays] are meant to serve as antidotes to despair. Despair leads to boredom, electronic games, computer hacking, poetry, and other bad habits.
(13) Thoreau’s mind has been haunting mine for most of my life.
(16) “If I knew for a certainty that some man was coming to my house with the conscious intention of doing me good, I would run for my life.” (Thoreau)
(17) We are slaves in the sense that we depend for our daily survival upon an expand-or-expire agro-industrial empire – a crackpot machine – that the specialists cannot comprehend and the managers cannot manage, which is devouring world resources at an exponential rate. We are, most of us, dependent employees.
(20) Appearance is Reality, Thoreau implies…He and the transcendentalists had little in common – in the long run – but their long noses.
(22) Modern man and women are obsessed with the sexual; it is the only realm of primordial adventure still left to most of us. Like apes in a zoo, we spend our energies on the one field of play remaining; human lives otherwise are pretty well caged in by the walls, bars, chains, and locked gates of our industrial culture.
- Tender Carnivore
(29) [We need] a more sophisticated science than we possess at present…a science with room for more than data and information, a science that includes sympathy for the object under study, and more than sympathy, love…numbers, charts, diagrams, and formulas are not in themselves sufficient. The face of science as currently construed is a face that only a mathematician could love…That which today calls itself science gives us more and more information, an indigestible glut of information, and less and less understanding.
(32) Psychoanalysis is the neurosis of the psychoanalyst – and of the psychoanalytic critic. Why should we bother any more with this garbage? I thought we stopped talking about Freud back in 1952. Sometime near the end of the Studebaker era.
(34) The American West has not given us, so far, sufficient men to match our mountains. Or not since the death of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Dull Knife, Red Cloud, Chief Joseph, Little Wolf, Red Shirt, Gall, Geronimo, Cochise, Tenaya, and their comrades. With their defeat died a bold, brave, heroic way of life, one as fine as anything recorded history has to show us. I’d sooner have been a liver-eating, savage horseman, riding with Red Cloud, than a slave-owning sophist sipping tempered wine in Periclean Athens. Even Atilla the Hun, known locally as the Scourge of God, brought more fresh air and freedom into Europe than the crowd who gave us the syllogism and geometry, Aristotle and his Categories, Plato and his Laws.
(51) The lizard sunning itself on a stone would no doubt tell us that time, space, sun, and earth exist to serve the lizard’s interests; the lizard too, must see the world as perfectly comprehensible, reducible to a rational formula. Relative to the context, the lizard’s metaphysical system seems as complete as Einstein’s.
(51) ‘Knowledge is power,’ said Francis Bacon, great great grandfather of the nuclear age. Power, exactly – that’s been the point of the game all along. But power does not lead to wisdom, even less to understanding. Sympathy, love, physical contact – touching – are better means to do so fine an end.
(51) Throw metaphysics to the dogs, I say, and watch the birds.
(52) Anything reduced to numbers and algebra is not very interesting.
(53) I respect vultures myself, even like them, I guess, in a way, and fully expect to someday join them, internally at least. One should plan one’s reincarnation with care. I like especially the idea of floating among the clouds all day, seldom stirring a feather, meditating on whatever it is that vultures meditate about. It looks like a good life, from down here.
(72) ‘Chilook-a-nuck,’ a sherpa phrase which means ‘I’m almost dead.’ Always good for a laugh in Nepal.
(72) As on any commercial river trip, the boatmen/boatwomen are the best part of the trip. The most interesting part. The rest is scenery. Which keeps floating past before you can get the feel of it, or even get a good look at it. But that’s the price of keeping on a schedule. The life span of modern techno-industrial man must be the shortest in human history.
- Susan Sontag
(79) ‘A man whose emotions are alive is at home anywhere,’ Saul Bellow…But a countryman feels different, knows better; a countryman has a place on earth that is his own, and much as he may love to wander, he loves the wandering more because he has a place to return to, a place to die. The earth has fed me for half a century; I owe the earth a body.
(88) Mankind will not be free until the last general is strangled with the entrails of the last systems analyst. As my sainted grandmother used to say.
(116) Somewhere in his Essays (ca. 1560, “On Cannibals”), Montaigne mentions an American Indian who was brought to France and shown around; asked to give his opinion of the civilized glories he had seen, the Indian, reports Montaigne, wondered how a few rich men could keep so many poor men in subjection, and why the poor men did not cut the rich men’s throats. What the Indian failed to see was that the poor were trapped by their dependence on agriculture, their escape foreclosed by the spread of dense human populations and the enclosure of the free, wild, unoccupied land. With the forests cut down, most of humanity submitted to slavery in one form or another in order to survive. It must have seemed to most of them, before they ceased to think about it, before they ceased to think, that they had no choice; it was either serve the lord of the manor or starve. The disciplining of the earth required and led to the disciplining of human beings.
- Peter Farb, P Shepard, Robin Fox and Lionel Tiger
- Fromm, Marcuse
(117) The domination of Nature made possible by misapplied science leads to the domination of people, to a dreary and totalitarian uniformity…a technocratic despotism.
(120) The chief reason so many people are fleeing the cities at every opportunity to go tramping, canoeing, skiing into the wilds is that wilderness offers a taste of adventure, a chance for the rediscovery of our ancient, preagricultural, preindustrial freedom. Forest and desert, mountain and river, when ventured upon in primitive terms, allow us a sort of Proustian recapture, however superficial and brief, of the rich sensations of our former existence, our basic heritage of a million years of hunting, gathering, wandering. This elemental impulse still survives in our blood, nerves, dreams, and desires, suppressed but not destroyed by the mere five thousand years of agricultural serfdom, a mere two hundred years of industrial peonage, which culture has attempted to impose on what evolution designed as a feeling, thinking, liberty-loving animal.
(140) A happy man’s true paradise is his own good nature.
(177) I detest the word ‘resource.’ How could a wild river, part of nature’s bloodstream, ever come to be regarded primarily as a damned resource? As if it were no more than a vein of coal, a field of cabbages, a truckload of cow manure?
We know how it happened. We are compelled, like it or not, to look upon the world as a meat pie, to be divvied up according to the will of the strongest…In a newly founded, relatively still rich society like the American, that which is not needed for food and survival is utilized for entertainment; a river becomes a ‘recreational resource’ and fun, play, sport become among other things a business enterprise. An industry, in accordance with the carefully instilled belief that you can’t have fun unless you pay for it.
(221) When Beethoven was asked to explain the meaning of one of his sonatas, he simply sat down at the piano and played it through again. - Dylan: "The meaning is in the music itself. It's nowhere else. Listen to the music."
- What is more important, what is the background of life and meaning, the art itself, or the analysis of it? Nature itself, or the analysis of it?
(230) Each precious moment entails every other. Each sacred place suggests the immanent presence of all sacred places.
- M Eliade
(231) Every river I touch turns to heartbreak. Floating down a portion of Rio Colorado in Utah on a rare month on spring, twenty two years ago, a friend and I found ourselves passing through a world so beautiful it seemed and had to be – eternal. Such perfection of being, we thought – these glens of sandstone, these winding corridors of mystery, leading each to its solitary revelation – could not possibly be changed. The philosophers and theologians have agreed, for three thousand years, that the perfect is immutable – that which cannot alter and cannot ever be altered. They were wrong. We were wrong. Glen canyon was destroyed. Everything changes, and nothing is more vulnerable than the beautiful.
- the naming of a thing, even the knowing of a thing, somehow destroys it