Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Abbey: The Mystic

Ryan Cooley
September 24, 2014
Seminar in Composition
Adam Johns
Edward Abbey: They Mystic
As I have written in my last couple entries, I believe that Abbey has displayed a lack of growth as a character in his Desert Solitaire that being said, I stick to my belief but in the final chapters I noticed we delve deeper into who Abbey really is. All we know throughout the first half of the book is that Abbey loves nature for all its worth and disparages modern civilization. In the flow of the book, Abbey writes less about who is to what he is and by the end he is indeed a mystic.
              In rereading the first chapter I come across a passage that I appreciate much more one time through the book. Abbey establishes his inner motivations for confining himself to Arches in saying, “I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with a nonhuman world and yet somehow survives still intact, individual, separate” (pg. 7, Abbey). This justifies my earlier claim that while he is not yet a mystic at this point in the book, it is his goal to be one by the end. All of the sudden, the book seems to be less of a memoir and more of a linear story. Linear in the sense that the flow of a generic beginning, middle and end serve to accomplish the Abbey’s overall goal. //Add another sentence
              Though Abbey’s journey into mysticism is reoccurring early, I notice in the chapter “Down the River” there is a boom of events that push Abbey. He goes as far as to call the canyon “paradise” (pg. 167, Abbey), not a paradise but the paradise. Then he goes on to discard any religious view of paradise which is puts him in pretty risky waters on top of all the previous controversial claims. Of course we cannot forget when Abbey decides to become one with nature, if I may, and enjoy life on the water naked. It’s the little things in life Abbey likes to enjoy and it’s these little details that make him a mystic. Nature is Abbey’s religion “floating onward in effortless peace into Eden” (pg. 160, Abbey), is his pilgrimage.   

              On into the next chapter “Havasu” we experience a full mystic Abbey. As he somehow becomes astray into the wild for five weeks, he seems to be in perfect harmony. Whereas, working for Arches still showed us a cynical Abbey, this is the deeper Abbey that we have yet to see before. Even alone and in his most vulnerable state in the wild he states “I don’t care” (pg. 205, Abbey), he had finally achieved his goal. Death could not beat Abbey anymore because in his view he had already lived life to the fullest. While I will not go as far as to call it common sense, Abbey surely is a mystic, mixing religion with nature. Let’s be honest, would we even have Desert Solitaire without this mystic man? 

1 comment:

  1. Your 1st two paragraphs could easily be combined. I think I like your approach - getting at who Abbey is by recategorizing the book itself. If you want to argue that the linearity of the book helps us understand his mysticism, though, you could have been quicker & clearer about it.

    The last two paragraphs are rushed. While "Down the River" might give a variety of evidence of his mysticism, the mere use of the word "paradise" is something that anyone might do when describing a beautiful, untouched landscape. Maybe his repeated use the word does more - but rather than just pointing out repetitions of the word, you'd be better off asking & proving how literally he means the word. Your reading of Havasu is rushed and indifferent. Maybe there is something you could have said about how he is changed by the experience (especially as shown by his night in the cave).

    Overall: Your idea about linearity is good, but there's nothing of note here analyzing/exploring the spiritual dimensions of the book. Even just sticking to the two chapters you talked about, your reading is oddly limited. What about his conversations with Ralph? What about his solitary exploration of the canyon with cliff dwellings (one of my favorite moments when he dabbles in mysticism)? What about the cave? You didn't seem to think very hard or long here.


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