Most people are on the world, not in it

“Most people are on the world, not in it — have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them — undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.” ~John Muir


After more than 25 years of hiking, backpacking, camping, sauntering & lazing about on mountain tops I had a realization, an epiphany….

…So many times I stopped at an overlook for a “scenic view” and was overwhelmed with emotion at the awesome beauty before me. Then I got in the car and kept driving. That’s what so many people do. They are ON the world, not IN it.

Sunday my husband and I hiked near Craggy Gardens off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina– it’s one of those iconic and awe-inspiring scenic mountain viewpoints. We hiked into the woods, into a completely different ecosystem, up and down, over roots, past spruce stands, beside wildflowers, among bees, over granite and dirt and grass.

We came to the overlook, Hawkbill Rock, and just sat in quiet, snacking, taking in the view, watching the breeze blow through the trees on the ridge we had descended. And it came to me that most people are on the world, not in it. Most people get out of their cars and look out onto the mountains and see a beautiful landscape– a green and gorgeous landscape, but an almost sterile one– because they don’t know what’s in there. They are separate from it. It is not part of them. They don’t know about the roots and rocks, the trillium and bees and butterflies. They don’t know about the twisted tree trunks or the moss covered earth. They don’t know that the blueberries are flowering and the rhododendrons are about to burst into bloom. They don’t know about the downed tree where a bear has been scouring for grubs. They don’t know the clean and pure pleasure of breathing in the spruce, of feeling the cool breeze reward you when your calves are screaming. They don’t know.

They don’t know, don’t really know, that the mountains don’t need them. But it’s not just that– the Earth doesn’t need people. It’s something, isn’t it, being on top of the food chain? Sounds great. Sounds important. But what that actually means is that there is no other species depending on people as a food source. We are not needed. We are only permitted. So, what is our purpose as humans on this Earth? There must be something, because we are here. Is it to be caretakers of all we see? Is it to be happy? Is it to love? I guarantee it’s not to destroy, or wage wars, or tear each other down. I guarantee it’s not to let fear and hatred run our lives. These things are a waste of precious time. I guarantee it’s not to put ourselves above any of our fellow humans, because none of us are needed by this Earth. That makes us all equal. Nature levels the field.

…Sunday thoughts from someone who is IN the world.

Happy Trails,


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