“Wilderness. The word itself is music.”
Desert Solitaire is an insightful book on Edward Abbeys vision and thoughts on wilderness. Set in post World War two during a time of booming economic prosperity, we are introduced to an eager for adventure park ranger. He describes beautifully the natural setting of the Utah desert and how excited he is to immerse himself into wilderness. It is interesting to read his thoughts on nature during his first morning, he describes a rock looking like a head from Easter Island or a stone god. the next line he corrects himself and adds:
“The personification of the natural is exactly the tendency I wish to suppress in myself, to eliminate for good. I am here not only to evade for a while the clamor and filth and confusion of the cultural apparatus but also to confront, immediately and directly if it’s possible, the bare bones of existence, the elemental and fundamental, the bed rock which sustains us.”
He is yearning to get back to the roots of life and experience “the bare bones of existence.” His meaning of life is in the natural world, the wilderness. These thoughts set us up for the rest of the book and help readers to understand his views of human interactions in the natural world. It is funny to think of flashlights as a disadvantage, as Abbey describes, it is a source of light made to help one find their way. But the human eye adapts to the light and depends on it for too long and when the light is shut off, the eye can barely see. Without the flashlight the eye has limitations but it adapts to the dark and is sufficient. This is an allegory for humans and industrial tourism, when people depend on technology to experience the natural world, they are limited to seeing what nature is really like.
“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”
Abbey’s message is that when people rely too heavily on technology and vehicles to experience wilderness, they will lose sight of true nature. Human interaction with nature should be enjoyed in a way that doesn’t disturb the natural world itself or other humans admiring wilderness.