In all of our planetary history, founder of the Sierra Club John Muir (1838-1910) is the greatest person from whom to learn about environmental aesthetics. I did a 1500-page study of works by and about him and analyzed the components in his aesthetic experience. In Living in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness (available later this year), I have a chapter which is largely devoted to what I learned from this rugged, adventuresome, gifted, sensitive, eloquent, God-filled enthusiast for divine beauty in nature.
At the risk of giving you a summary that will inoculate you so that you think you have the whole thing in a nutshell and therefore have nothing significant to learn from reading any more, I’m going to give you a list of the dimensions of his experience so you can get started on your own and not have to wait for my chapter. (Actually, much of the material is in Jeffrey Wattles, “John Muir as a Guide to Education in Environmental Aesthetics,” The Journal of Aesthetic Education Volume 47, Number 3, Fall 2013, pages 56-71.)
- Keen perception, informed by science
- Creative imagination, informed by the arts
- Intellectual discovery of various kinds of harmony
- Philosophical reflection
- Appreciation of beauty as divine
Philosophers have a tendency to make lists of this kind; and what distinguishes Muir is the total unification of these factors in his experience. He never gives any such list. How did he accomplish this unity of experience? Wholeheartedness.
Happy experiencing on the next level!