Edward Abbey


American Author and Essayist noted for advocacy of environmental issues and criticism of public land policies

Author Quotes

Our institutions are too big; they represent not the best but the worst characteristics of human beings. By submitting to huge hierarchies of power, we gain freedom from personal responsibility for what we do and are forced to do - the seduction of it - but we lose the dignity of being real men and women. Power corrupts; attracts the worst and corrupts the best... Refuse to participate in evil; insist on taking part in what is healthy, generous, and responsible. Stand up, speak out, and when necessary fight back. Get down off the fence and lend a hand, grab a-hold, be a citizen - not a subject.

Poor Dimitri Shostakovich: In the Soviet Union, he was condemned as being too radical; in the West, for being too conservative. He could please no one but the musical public. He revenged himself on both by writing a short piece called 'March of the Soviet Police.'

Revealing my desert thoughts to a visitor one evening, I was accused of being against civilization, against science, against humanity. Naturally I was flattered and at the same time surprised, hurt, a little shocked. He repeated the charge. But how, I replied, being myself a member of humanity (albeit involuntarily, without prior consultation), could I be against humanity without being against myself, whom I love?though not very much; how can I be against science, when I gratefully admire, as much as any man, Thales, Democritus, Aristarchus, Faustus, Paracelsus, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Darwin and Einstein; and finally, how could I be against civilization when all which I most willingly defend and venerate?including the love

Should a writer have a social purpose? Any honest writer is bound to become a critic of the society he lives in, and sometimes, like Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut or Leo Tolstoy or Francois Rabelais, a very harsh critic indeed. The others are sycophants, courtiers, servitors, entertainers. Shakespeare was a sychophant; however, he was and is also a very good poet, and so we continue to read him.

Star, to serve as a guiding point.

The automobile, which began as a transportation convenience, has become a bloody tyrant (50,000 lives a year), and it is the responsibility of the park service, as well as that of everyone else concerned with preserving both wilderness and civilization, to begin a campaign of resistance.

The dead man?s nephew, excused from this duty, walks far ahead out of earshot. We are free as we go stumbling and sweating along to say exactly what we please, without fear of offending. Heavy son of a bitch.? All blown up like he is, you?d think he?d float like a balloon. Let?s just hope he don?t explode. He won?t. We let the gas out. What about lunch? somebody asks; I?m hungry. Eat this. Why?d the bastard have to go so far from the road? There?s something leaking out that zipper. Never mind, let?s try to get in step here, the sheriff says. Goddamnit, Floyd, you got big feet. Are we going in the right direction? I wonder if the old fart would walk part way if we let him out of that bag? He won?t even say thank you for the ride. Well I hope this learned him a lesson, goddamn him. I guess he?ll stay put after this.? Thus we meditate upon the stranger?s death.

The first thing I did was take off my pants. Naturally.

The itch for naming things is almost as bad as the itch for possessing things. Let them and leave them alone--they'll survive for a few more thousand years, more or less, without any glorification from us.

The more we learn of outer space and inner space, of quasars and quarks, of Big Bangs and Little Blips, the more remote, abstract and intellectually inconsequential it all becomes.

The plow; the raw September earth; the massive-haunched and mighty-hoofed old bay clomping and farting down the furrow; Father holding the plow, my brother the reins, and me with a sack following, gathering the fruits of the overturned soil ? the earth apples? Richly abundant, brown fat potatoes, thick as stars, appearing like miracles out of the barren, weedy, stony patch, thousands of big hefty solid spuds, bushel after bushel, a hundred bushels per acre, a mass of treasure from the earth? How our hands and eyes delighted in that harvest, how gladly we dragged our bulging gunnysacks to the wagon?a wagonful of potatoes! Dark, crusted with dirt, soil, earth, cool to the touch, good to eat even raw; we plowed the shabby-looking field and turned up nuggets, plenty, abundance, more than we needed, riches unimagined.

The sense of justice springs from self-respect; both are coeval with our birth. Children are born with an innate sense of justice; it usually takes twelve years of public schooling and four more years of college to beat it out of them.

The wind blows sand in my teeth but also brings the scent of flowering cliff rose and a hint of mountain snow, more than adequate compensation.

There are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep.

There is no force more potent in the modern world than stupidity fueled by greed.

They intertwine and separate, glide side by side in perfect congruence, turn like mirror images of each other and glide back again, wind and unwind again. This is the basic pattern but there is a variation: at regular intervals the snakes elevate their heads, facing one another, as high as they can go, as if each is trying to outreach or overawe the other. Their heads and bodies rise, higher and higher, then topple together and the rite goes on.

To all accusations of excessive development the administrators can reply, as they will if pressed hard enough, that they are giving the public what it wants, that their primary duty is to serve the public not preserve the wilds. Parks are for people is the public relations slogan, which decoded means that the parks are for people-in-automobiles. Behind the slogan is the assumption that the majority of Americans, exactly like the managers of the tourist industry, expect and demand to see their national parks from the comfort, security and convenience of their automobiles. Is this assumption correct? Perhaps. Does that justify the continued and increasing erosion of the parks? It does not.

Voluntary simplicity.

We live in a time of twin credulities: the hunger for the miraculous combined with a servile awe of science. The mating of the two gives us superstition plus scientism -- a Mongoloid metaphysic.

What good is a Bill of Rights that does not include the right to play, to wander, to explore, the right to stillness and solitude, to discovery and physical freedom?

When a man's best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem.

Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsman grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and esthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one.

Nothing could be more reckless than to base one's moral philosophy on the latest pronouncements of science.

One thing more dangerous than getting between a grizzly sow and her cub is getting between a businessman and a dollar bill.

Our job is to record, each in his own way, this world of light and shadow and time that will never come again exactly as it is today.

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American Author and Essayist noted for advocacy of environmental issues and criticism of public land policies