Osho said: "Whenever you are in love with flowing things, moving things, you have a different vision of life. Modern man lives with asphalt roads, cement and concrete buildings. These are nouns, remember, these are not verbs." Aldo Leopold noted: "There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot." And it seems that we humans are not among the things we characterize as wild.
Mircea Eliade, defining "hierophany" as "the act of manifestation of the sacred," wrote:
"The sacred tree, the sacred stone are not adored as stone or tree; they are worshipped precisely because they are hierophanies, because they show something that is no longer stone or tree but the sacred, the ganz andere [wholly other]. ... For those who have a religious experience all nature is capable of revealing itself as cosmic sacrality. The cosmos in its entirety can become a hierophany."
Edward Abbey wrote of the appeal of "freedom" and "danger" rather than of sacredness:
But why, the questioner insists, why do people like you pretend to love uninhabited country so much? Why this cult of wilderness? Why the surly hatred of progress and development, the churlish resistance to all popular improvements?
Very well, a fair question, but it's been asked and answered a thousand times already; enough books to drive a man stark naked mad have dealt in detail with the question. There are many answers, all good, each sufficient. Peace is often mentioned; beauty; spiritual refreshment, whatever that means; re-creation for the soul, whatever that is; escape; novelty, the delight of something different; truth and understanding and wisdom – commendable virtues in any man, anytime; ecology and all that, meaning the salvation of variety, diversity, possibility and potentiality, the preservation of the genetic reservoir, the answers to questions that we have not yet even learned to ask, a connection to the origin of things, an opening into the future, a source of sanity for the present – all true, all wonderful, all more than enough to answer such a dumb dead degrading question as "Why wilderness?"
To which, nevertheless, I shall append one further answer anyway: because we like the taste of freedom; because we like the smell of danger.
Osho. Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2000. p 39.
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation from Round River. (1949) New York: Ballantine Books, 1970. p xvii.
Mircea Eliade. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion: The Significance of Religious Myth, Symbolism, and Ritual within Life and Culture. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1957, 1959, 1961. p 12.
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, p 36-37