Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Story of My Boyhood and Youth - by John Muir

Free US/UK Kindle Classic
 "Surely a better time must be drawing nigh when godlike human beings will become truly humane, and learn to put their animal fellow mortals in their hearts instead of on their backs or in their dinners."

Is it any wonder that John Muir is still beloved over a hundred years later for his work to preserve what was left of the American wilderness? He founded the Sierra Club.  If you have seen the great redwoods, you owe him a debt. Many wild and beautiful places are named after him.  So how did this Scottish born naturalist end up one of America's most famous naturalists?

Read his memoir, The Story of My Boyhood and Youth ,  and you will understand the man. (US Edition)  (UK Edition) 

Here he talks of farm animals (oxen) and their humanity.   It sounds as if it was written yesterday, not 1913.

The humanity we found in them came partly through the expression of their eyes when tired, their tones of voice when hungry and calling for food, their patient plodding and pulling in hot weather, their long-drawn-out sighing breath when exhausted and suffering like ourselves, and their enjoyment of rest with the same grateful looks as ours. We recognized their kinship also by their yawning like ourselves when sleepy and evidently enjoying the same peculiar pleasure at the roots of their jaws; by the way they stretched themselves in the morning after a good rest; by learning languages,—Scotch, English, Irish, French, Dutch,—a smattering of each as required in the faithful service they so willingly, wisely rendered; by their intelligent, alert curiosity, manifested in listening to strange sounds; their love of play; the attachments they made; and their mourning, long continued, when a companion was killed.

Here we are in familiar memoir territory . . .

Strange to say, father carefully taught us to consider ourselves very poor worms of the dust, conceived in sin, etc., and devoutly believed that quenching every spark of pride and self-confidence was a sacred duty, without realizing that in so doing he might at the same time be quenching everything else. Praise he considered most venomous, and tried to assure me that when I was fairly out in the wicked world making my own way I would soon learn that although I might have thought him a hard taskmaster at times, strangers were far harder. On the contrary, I found no lack of kindness and sympathy. All the baggage I carried was a package made up of the two clocks and a small thermometer made of a piece of old washboard, all three tied together, with no covering or case of any sort, the whole looking like one very complicated machine.

So read about this young inventor (!) who left us a priceless legacy and an example of a life well lived.

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