Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Question for Abbey

Matthew Gerstbrein
Dr. Adam Johns
English Composition 0200
24 September 2014
A Question for Abbey
            “Abbey, after reading your account of your experiences and feelings while living in the desert, I have a philosophical question for you. You have made it abundantly clear that paved roads and city tourists have no place in national parks through quotes such as ‘For God’s sake leave this country alone-Abbey’ (Abbey 329). You are specifically referring to The Maze, but it applies to the entire area of the wilderness. It is a plea to implore government departments to stop industrializing the land. Another quote, explicitly stating your disdain for paved roads is made when you write ‘…I got the full and terrible story, confirming the worst of my fears. They were a survey crew, laying out a new road into the Arches.’ (Abbey 53). So my question is, what is it about these roads, cars, and tourists, that you despise so much? After all, the parks can get more attention because more people can come to see them. You know this fact, and yet you resent it. You say that living in the land itself is the best way to know it and understand it. While this may be true, it is simply not feasible for people with a schedule to do so. Would you rather these people never come to the Arches at all? Is it better they stay within their own realm of city, completely separated from nature? Should they never even have the opportunity to get a taste of what nature has to offer? What is the truth behind your hatred for the paved roads and larger amounts of tourists?”
            “Your questions are valid. It appears you have interpreted what I have said to be selfish. I do not truly want to keep all this land for myself to admire. While I do enjoy solitude, I would be overjoyed if more people could come and see this land in the way it was truly meant to be seen. But that is the key point, in the way it was meant to be seen. These tourists reduce it to a mockery of what it is meant to be. Nearing the end of the story I write ‘Yes sir, yes madam, I entreat you, get out of those motorized wheelchairs, get off your foam rubber backsides, stand up straight like men! like women! like human beings! and walk-walk-WALK upon our sweet and blessed land!’ (Abbey 291). At this time, in an exaggerated manner, I am pointing out why I do not appreciate tourism. These tourists believe they have been to Arches, and know something about it. But how can they know if they haven’t experienced it? And experience doesn’t result from looking out a car window.
            But even if these tourists came to experience this land in the way it was meant to be, I would still disapprove of the idea of more roads, and increased traffic. My reasoning is based off of a single word: progress. The idea of progress scares me. “Progress” has ruined nations. ‘For there is a cloud on my horizon. A small dark cloud no bigger than my hand. Its name is Progress.’(Abbey 51) is a quote that exhibits my fear of it. I fear it because it is not what it seems. While it carries positive connotations, it is not a good thing at all in my eyes. The reason is that with progress always comes more problems. Problems that can only be fixed with more progress, which in turn causes more problems, and the destructive cycle continues. I cite an example of progress in action with Lee’s Ferry when I write ‘…historic buildings are razed by bulldozers to save the expense of maintaining them while at the same time hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on an unneeded paved entrance road. And the administrators complain about vandalism.’ (Abbey 57-58). The idea of more money corrupts park administration from doing what is best for the park, and thus the park turns into a mockery of what it once was. And that is what the incentive behind more paved roads. With more roads comes more traffic, and with more traffic comes more money. This monetary incentive blinds the administration from seeing the true beauty of the park, and the original beauty of the park will be destroyed because of it. So to answer your question, I am not afraid of or against the roads and the surplus of tourists, but I am very afraid of the progress that is associated with it.”

Works Cited

Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. New York: Ballantine, 1971. Print.

1 comment:

  1. You ask an awful lot of questions at the beginning. I understand that they connect, but you don't want to try to bite off too much to chew, especially at the very beginning. Most of these questions are addressed in the book, whether or not we like the answers - another reason why a narrower focus would probably have been better.

    "But that is the key point, in the way it was meant to be seen." - this is a good concept, worth exploring and unpacking. If this was your main focus, though, I think your intro could have been much shorter.

    Returning to the dangers of progress is ok, but also limited. We talked about this topic a good deal in class, and it's something which is present through much of the book. So what you want to be sure of, when you're addressing something like that, is to be sure that you have a unique or at least distinctive take on it. You shouldn't aim simply to explain Abbey on some more or less random point; you should be looking to interpret or develop his thoughts. For instance, we might ask how we can relate his ideas about progress to highly specific moments in the book - how does his visionary journey in the side-canyons of the Colorado relate to the idea of progress? How about his return to NYC? You could have done something along those lines by focusing more fully & more quickly.


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