RIP – Edward Abbey!

Lydia and I have been running a lot lately, actually more like hiking, usually 2-3 hours up in the mountains, but sometimes upwards of 4-5 hours,  it’s been so good.  It’s always amazing to me how far we can travel on foot.  With a light back and some good boots.  You can go anywhere you want.  And when you turn around and look back from where you came, it’s the most simple and rewarding feeling I can think of.  Also, I’ve been reading alot of Edward Abbey.  He was a poet of sorts, an author definitely, but also a great inspiration. Check his books, Desert Solitaire and the Monkey Wrench Gang.   Abbey’s abrasiveness, opposition to “progress” and outspoken words made him the object of much controversy. Conventional environmentalists (from mainstream groups) disliked his radical style, “Keep America Beautiful…Burn a Billboard”.


Edward Abbey died on March 14, 1989.  Showing his sense of humor, he left a message for anyone who asked about his final words: “No comment.” Abbey also left instructions on what to do with his remains described in Outside Magazine in 2003…

He wanted his body transported in the bed of a pickup truck. He wanted to be buried as soon as possible. He wanted no undertakers. No embalming, for Godsake! No coffin. Just an old sleeping bag… Disregard all state laws concerning burial. “I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree.” said the message.’

‘As for his funeral: He wanted gunfire, and a little music. “No formal speeches desired, though the deceased will not interfere if someone feels the urge. But keep it all simple and brief.” And then a big happy raucous wake. He wanted more music, gay and lively music. He wanted bagpipes. “And a flood of beer and booze! Lots of singing, dancing, talking, hollering, laughing, and lovemaking.” said the message. And meat! Beans and chilis! And corn on the cob. Only a man deeply in love with life and hopelessly soft on humanity would specify, from beyond the grave, that his mourners receive corn on the cob.’

Abbey’s body was buried in the Cabeza Prieta Desert, in Pima County, AZ, where “you’ll never find it.”  His friends carved a marker on a nearby stone, reading: EDWARD PAUL ABBEY  1927—1989   No Comment.

Here are some of my all time favorite quotes, I hope you enjoy them too.  And if you don’t have time to read them all, skip to the last one.

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

“The tragedy of modern war is that the young men die fighting each other – instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals.”

“Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.”

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit”

“The missionaries go forth to Christianize the savages – as if the savages weren’t dangerous enough already”

“Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.”

“Love implies anger. The man who is angered by nothing cares about nothing.”

“A drink a day keeps the shrink away”

“There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.”

“If the end does not justify the means – what can?”

“One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain’t nothin’ can beat teamwork.”

“You can’t study the darkness by flooding it with light.”

“Our ‘neoconservatives’ are neither new nor conservative, but old as Babylon and evil as Hell”

“Power is always dangerous. Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best.”

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

“The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.”

“When a man’s best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem”

“Belief in the supernatural reflects a failure of the imagination”

“When the philosopher’s argument becomes tedious, complicated, and opaque, it is usually a sign that he is attempting to prove as true to the intellect what is plainly false to common sense”

“In the modern techno-industrial culture, it is possible to proceed from infancy into senility without ever knowing manhood”

“High technology has done us one great service: It has retaught us the delight of performing simple and primordial tasks – chopping wood, building a fire, drawing water from a spring”

“For myself I hold no preferences among flowers, so long as they are wild, free, spontaneous.”

“Taxation: how the sheep are shorn”

“The only thing worse than a knee-jerk liberal is a knee-pad conservative.”

“In social institutions, the whole is always less than the sum of its parts. There will never be a state as good as its people, or a church worthy of its congregation, or a university equal to its faculty and students.”

“Is there any spot on earth that men have not proved accessible by the simplest means — feet and legs and heart?”

“One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast… a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.”

  • Howard Helbein

    Thanks for sharing this. I think Abbey’s quotes stand up there with John Muir’s.

  • Lucas

    so very very good. thanks sonnie.

  • Brilliant. I always admired him as one of the wise elders. He’s such an iconoclast.

    Sea Shepherd used to have a ship named Edward Abbey… they renamed it Sirenian, but I never knew why.

  • positive.

  • Nancy

    I’ve read all his books, Sonnie, and recommend them! The man was brilliant and a huge defender of the wilderness…imagine Arches National Monument before it became a national park, before anyone in his right mind would explore in that godforsaken place. His buddy, Doug Peacock (upon whom Hayduke was modeled), has written some great books; most are about his love for and defense of the grizzly bear…even edgier than Abbey. Also, recommended reading, every one.

    I’d be happy to send you my copies. Let me know.

    :-)Nancy

  • Jo

    Very good quotes.
    Maybe, every one should have this in their mind.
    I didn’t know him but gona see if I can find it.

    Merci !

  • joel

    great quotes. sounds like my kind of guy.

  • Jesse

    Brilliant and Refreshing — Thanks!

  • Burtacus

    “God Bless America- Let’s save some of it”
    “Only a fool is astonished by the foolishness of mankind”

    2 other great Abbey-isms.

  • Burtacus

    Fools Progress is one my all time favorite fiction novels by any author.
    Black Sun is also a beautifully written fiction novel by Abbey that you will not be able to put down once started.

  • Sonnie

    Good ones.

  • Chris

    These quotes are brilliant. Congratulations From France!

  • Pete Donahue

    Do you know the photo credit? I’m putting together a quote book on Baseball (with Mr. Abbey being the first entry) and I’d love to be able to contact the photographer for permission.
    Thanks!

  • Sonnie, so great to see both a climber and a human motivated by important principles. I merely did a Goofgle search.