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jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

Can you help me find a very specific John Muir quote?

Asked by jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities (19677points) September 4th, 2010

It’s from his book – My First Summer in the Sierra. It’s not a popular or commonly quoted phrase. It has to do with his encounter with a plant (sadly, I don’t remember which plant) that had some characteristics which made it generally disliked/hated by humans (it was either very poisonous, a hazard to livestock, or very spiny). He then went on to describe the folly in man’s way of assigning a “value” to things purely based on whether or not they are of a certain use to us. Something along those lines; it’s been a few years, and my memory is a bit fuzzy.

I remember really enjoying the quote, and his ideas on the matter. I underlined it, but have subsequently misplaced the book. I’ve done countless internet searches, but have yet to find the quote I’m looking for. Again, it is not a commonly quoted phrase. I know this was a pretty vague description, but I simply don’t remember any more details. It’s probably a stab in the dark, but I’m crossing my fingers and hoping the collective can help.

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9 Answers

ipso's avatar

You should text search through this and find it and let us know!

BarnacleBill's avatar

On through the forest ever higher we go, a cloud of dust dimming the way, thousands of feet, trampling leaves and flowers, but in this mighty wilderness they seem but a feeble band, and a thousand gardens will escape their blighting touch. They cannot hurt the trees, though some of the seedlings suffer, and should the woolly locusts be greatly multiplied, as on account of dollar value they are likely to be, then the forests, too, may in time be destroyed. Only the sky will then be safe, though hid from view by dust and smoke, incense of a bad sacrifice. Poor, helpless, hungry sheep, in great part misbegotten, without good right to be, semi-manufactured, made less by God than man, born out of time and place, yet their voices are strangely human and call out one’s pity.

Trillian's avatar

I looked too. This seemed like the best source, and I found through anotherlink that I scanned first.

lillycoyote's avatar

Wow! Needle in haystack: John Muir quotes on the relationship between man and nature! :-). Good luck. Hopefully someone’s got it.

ipso's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities – I can’t shake the notion that the idea you mention is quoted in the first few chapters of Walden. Before I dig in [tomorrow?], is there even a possibility it was from that book?

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

@ipso Nope, it was definitely Muir, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar viewpoint from Thoreau. Or from Abbey or Leopold, for that matter.

flutherother's avatar

I can’t find this quote I’m afraid though it interested me. It reminds me of the philosophy of Chuang Tzu found at the end of Section 4 “All men know the use of the useful, but nobody knows the use of the useless!”

arnbev959's avatar

Poison oak or poison ivy (Rhus diversiloba), both as a bush and a scrambler up trees and rocks, is common throughout the foothill region up to a height of at least three thousand feet above the sea. It is somewhat troublesome to most travelers, inflaming the skin and eyes, but blends harmoniously with its companion plants, and many a charming flower leans confidingly upon it for protection and shade. I have oftentimes found the curious twining lily (Stropholirion Californicum) climbing its branches, showing no fear but rather congenial companionship. Sheep eat it without apparent ill effects; so do horses to some extent, though not fond of it, and to many persons it is harmless. Like most other things not apparently useful to man, it has few friends, and the blind question, “Why was it made?” goes on and on with never a guess that first of all it might have been made for itself.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

@petethepothead That’s definitely it. I though I remembered it being a bit more extensive, but I may have merged it with some other quotes in my mind. Thanks for taking the time to find it. Now, if only I could find my copy of the book…

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