Happy Birthday, John Muir

Often I am not aware of people’s birthdays in advance – sometimes I could see a person multiple times in one day and not know until later that it was their birthday. John Muir is no exception; I wasn’t aware that today is the anniversary of Mr. Muir’s birth, until my dear friend Alison (a great Tennessean and lover of national parks) brought it to my attention. In honor of what would have been his 178th birthday, here are 10 reasons why John Muir is still super relevant in 2016 and as young as ever. We millennials know Muir as a renowned environmentalist and founder of the Sierra Club, but he also graces our coffee mugs, quotes in our Instagram captions, and his hiking trails on our t-shirts. This past year I’ve been blessed to visit Yosemite National Park and Muir Woods National Monument, both which would not be possible without Muir. In my opinion, Muir is the ultimate “bae,” and would be a perfect 21st-century hipster.

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John Muir is a total hipster. Even this photo has a Sepia filter.
  1. The hipster beard. Always with a chest-length beard, Muir quit shaving way before men in 2016 started sporting the long facial hair. Just Google image “hipster beard” and look at how similar every flannel-clad man looks to Muir, 150 years ago. Even The Urban Beardsman praises Muir for donning the full beard and its comeback: “Once only associated with Paul Bunyan, Santa Claus, and John Muir, the full beard has started calling to a new generation of beardsmen over the past few years,” the website writes.
  2. Avid protester. Just as current college students have been protesting this week that their universities divest from fossil fuels  (NYU and Columbia, Melbourne Uni, UMass, and MIT to name a few), Muir was protesting the construction of a dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley 100 years ago. “Dam Hetch Hetchy!” he famously wrote. “As well dam for water-tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.”
  3. He’s out of this world. Literally – there is a minor planet named after John Muir. In 2004, an amateur astronomer living outside Los Angeles discovered a “1-mile diameter celestial body,” according to the Sierra Club. The International Astronomical Union named that minor planet “Johnmuir.”
  4. Flannel. John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland. Scots basically invented plaid, which is the common pattern for flannel shirts. Modern hipsters wear plaid flannel, so logically Muir would have fit right in.
  5. Dog lover.  There is nothing more attractive than a man who loves his dog, and Muir loved his dog Stickeen so much that he traveled with him in Alaska and then wrote a memoir about it.
  6. Pals with the president. Maybe not all hipsters would want to rub shoulders with a president, but celebrities do it all the time in 2016. Just the other day, the White House released a video of President Obama and NBA all-star Steph Curry mentoring one another. Similarly, Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt went camping together in Yosemite for three days in 1903. While there is no Buzzfeed video of their interaction, I am sure it would have been a hit.
  7. He was funemployed and single. “Funemployment,” a 21st-century term for “unemployed individuals who decide to enjoy the free time that unemployment provides,” describes Muir’s early adult years well. When Muir was 30 years old and living in Yosemite, he “was unmarried, often unemployed, with no prospects for a career, and had periods of anguish.” Sound familiar?
  8. College kid. It’s not guaranteed that Muir was a frat star or raged in college, but he did attend University of Wisconsin-Madison when he was 22, from 1860-1863. Were his years at the Big Ten school the best of his life? How many beers did he have? Who knows! I like to think Muir was the BMOC.
  9. Squad goals. Muir did take a lot of solo trips in his youth, but he also had strong friendships. Two of his best buds were poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and photographer Carleton Watkins. Hanging out with a poet and a photographer is a hip combo – I am sure that if Muir had an Instagram it would be lit.
  10. He could’ve been in a band. One of Muir’s nicknames was “John of the Mountains.” Could he have been the lead DJ for The Mountains, a Danish electronic trio? Their debut album, released in 2014, was called The Mountains, the Valleys, the Lakes. I feel like Muir would dig it.
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The author, Marissa, at Yosemite National Park. Muir helped establish the park in 1980.

Happy belated birthday to the amazing legend that is John Muir. On a more serious note, he has accomplished so much in his life that we all take for granted and I didn’t mention above. Read a brief bio from the Sierra Club here.

Disclaimer: I’m not the first to think of this topic. There is a blog called Hipster John Muir, as well as lots of hipster tattoos of Muir on Google images. Tattoos of his chest-length beard are not recommended.

© Rissponsible Living, 2016

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