November 1, 2010
Today, I’m doing things a little differently. I read some quotes by John Muir, who is often called the father of the national park system, and decided to feature them in this week’s blog, along with appropriate verses from Scripture.
But first a few words about the man. In the January 1916 John Muir Memorial edition of the Sierra Club Bulletin (he founded and was first president of the club), he was described this way: “He sung the glory of nature like another Psalmist…To some, beauty seems but an accident of creation: to Muir it was the very smile of God.”
The writer then goes on to relate this story about him: “[H]e stood with an acquaintance at one of the great view-points of the Yosemite Valley, and, filled with wonder and devotion, wept. His companion, more stolid than most, could not understand his feeling, and was so thoughtless as to say so. ‘Mon,’ said Muir, with the Scotch dialect into which he often lapsed, ‘Can ye see unmoved the glory of the Almighty?’ ‘Oh, it’s very fine,’ was the reply, ‘but I do not wear my heart upon my sleeve.’ ‘Ah, my dear mon,’ said Muir, ‘in the face of such a scene as this, it’s no time to be thinkin’ o’ where you wear your heart.'”
So…as you read Muir’s vivid and often profound descriptions, may you not “be thinkin’ o’ where you wear your heart,” but just rejoice in and be moved by “the glory of the Almighty,” as he saw it in our national parks.
From “Explorations in the Great Tuolumne Canon” [in Yosemite], Overland Monthly, August, 1873:
I used to envy the father of our race, swelling as he did in contact with the new-made fields and plants of Eden; but I do so no more, because I have discovered that I also live in “creation’s dawn.” The morning stars still sing together, and the world, not yet half made, becomes more beautiful every day.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth!…Who set its measurements…or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Job 38:4-7
From My First Summer in the Sierra [also Yosemite], 1911:
Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.
The waving of a pine tree on the top of a mountain, a magic wand in Nature’s hand, every devout mountaineer knows its power; but the marvelous beauty value of what the Scotch call a breckan in a still dell, what poet has sung this? It would seem impossible than any one, however incrusted with care, could escape the Godful influence of these sacred fern forests.
The air is distinctly fragrant with balsam and resin and mint, every breath of it a gift we may well thank God for. Who could ever guess that so rough a wilderness should yet be so fine, so full of good things. One seems to be in a majestic domed pavilion in which a grand play is being acted with scenery and music and incense, all the furniture and action so interesting we are in no danger of being called on to endure one dull moment. God Himself seems to be always doing his best here…”
The place seemed holy, where one might hope to see God. After dark, when the damp was at rest, I groped my way back to the altar boulder and passed the night on it, above the water, beneath the leaves and stars, everything still more impressive than by day, the fall seen dimly white, singing Nature’s old love song with solemn enthusiasm, while the stars peering through the leaf-roof seemed to join in the white water’s song. Precious night, precious day to abide in me forever. Thanks be to God for this immortal gift.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night. Psalm 42:7, 8
From “Three Days with John Muir,” from the book The World’s Work, 1909:
[People] can not pause long enough to go out into the wilderness…and contemplate for even an hour the wonderful world that they live in…The good Lord put those things here as a free gift that he who chooses may take with joy.
Little men, with only a book knowledge of science, have seized upon evolution as an escape from the idea of a God. “Evolution!” a wonderful, mouth-filling word, isn’t it? It covers a world of ignorance. Just say “evolution” and you have explained every phenomenon of Nature and explained away God. It sounds big and wise…But what caused evolution? There they stick. To my mind, it is inconceivable that a plan that has worked out, through unthinkable millions of years, without one hitch or one mistake, the development of beauty that has made every microscopic particle of matter perform its function in harmony with every other in the universe, that such a plan is the blind product of an unthinking abstraction. No; somewhere, before evolution was, was an Intelligence that laid out the plan, and evolution is the process, not the origin, of the harmony. You may call that Intelligence what you please: I cannot see why so many people object to call it God.
For since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…” Romans 1:20