Monday, June 14, 2010


Not a Luxury But a Necessity

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (Down the River):
No, wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.

If industrial man continues to multiply his numbers and expand his operations he will succeed in his apparent intention, to seal himself off from the natural and isolate himself within a synthetic prison of his own making. He will make himself an exile from the earth and then will know at last, if he is still capable of feeling anything, the pain and agony of final loss. He will understand what the captive Zia Indians meant when they made a song out of their sickness for home:
My home over there,
Now I remember it;
And when I see that mountain far away,
Why then I weep,
Why then I weep,
Remembering my home.
The translation of the song is by Herbert J. Spinden (1879-1967), "Home Songs of the Tewa Indians," The American Museum Journal 15 (1915) 73-78 (at 73). See also his Songs of the Tewa (New York: Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts, Inc., 1933). There is a biographical sketch of Spinden by Frederic W. Gleach in Celebrating a Century of the American Anthropological Association: Presidential Portraits (Arlington: American Anthropological Association; Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), pp. 73-76.

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