Some religions begin with fairly common people discovering a book out in the wilds. Moses gets stone tablets; Jesus gets a “gospel”; Muhammad gets something to recite (a “qur’an”); Joseph Smith gets something to read with big (invisible) spectacles.
It all becomes quite predictable, doesn’t it? “See what God gave me!” “See what I found!”
With this long history of “Gift Books” in mind, I offer this refreshing piece of secular wisdom from the great naturalist, John Muir. These are the opening lines from his first published article (New York Tribune, December 5, 1871):
YOSEMITE VALLEY September 28th, 1871. Two years ago, when picking flowers in the mountains back of Yosemite Valley, I found a book. It was blotted and storm-beaten; all of its outer pages were mealy and crumbly, the paper seemed to dissolve like the snow beneath which it had been buried; but many of the inner pages were well preserved, and though all were more or less stained and torn, whole chapters were easily readable. In this condition is the great open book of Yosemite glaciers today; its granite pages have been torn and blurred by the same storms that wasted the castaway book. The grand central chapters of the Hoffman, and Tenaya, and Nevada glaciers are stained and corroded by the frosts and rains, yet, nevertheless, they contain scarce one unreadable page; but the outer chapters of the Pohono, and the Illilouette, and the Yosemite Creek, and Ribbon, and Cascade glaciers, are all dimmed and eaten away on the bottom, though the tops of their pages have not been so long exposed, and still proclaim in splendid characters the glorious actions of their departed ice.
Now, doesn’t this make you want to go, to see, to learn more about the beauty of our world?
Doesn’t this call you and call me out to the wilds beyond the ancient Sinais and Judean deserts, Arabian caves and farmland hills of New York?
There are countless books to be found, and read. . .out there.