Stefani's Reviews > Desert Solitaire

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
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Jun 19, 12

bookshelves: of-it-s-time, west

With great difficulty, I sometimes think about my own mortality, the years I have left on earth, how with each year that I get older, the years remaining disproportionately seem shorter. Admittedly, it's a depressing train of thought to entertain, and makes me want to crawl under a proverbial rock and die...it also has a sickening domino effect with my thoughts then residing in the eternal questions of life—why am I here, what is my purpose in life, etc...and all the anxieties and regrets that go along with those ponderings. *Sigh* I think I know now what it's like to be Scandinavian or French.

In any case, I feel a little calmer about everything after reading this book.

Although Abbey is admittedly a bit of a hypocritical prick with an axe to grind against humanity—calling the world overpopulated when he himself had five children is among one of several such statements he makes—he seems to have a very tender reverence for the natural world, and devotes much of the novel to prodigiously recording the natural beauty of Arches Natural Park from his six-month tenure as a park ranger. At the same time, he abhorrently rejects man's infringement on nature and lack of respect for the natural world, opposing development of all forms (including the dam that was being constructed in the park circa 1968).

But if you can overlook all these short-lived rants, there is something meaningful to be gleaned from Abbey. I think the below passage sums it up pretty well:

A few of the little amphibians will continue their metamorphosis by way of the nerves and tissues of one of the higher animals, in which process the joy of one becomes the contentment of the second. Nothing is lost except an individual consciousness here and there, a trivial perhaps even illusory phenomenon. The rest survive, mate, multiply, burrow, estivate, dream and rise again. The rains will come, the potholes shall be filled. Again. And again. And again.

Despite the sentimentalities we humans heap on the significance of our individual lives, we are only a small part of a much larger universe.
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