thomas m wilson

Smokey the Bear Sutra

August 22nd, 2008

The year was 1969… the back to the land movement was underway. People were heading off to build little wooden cabins in forest clearings and Gary Snyder published his poem Smokey the Bear Sutra:


Wearing the broad-brimmed hat of the West, symbolic of forces that guard the Wilderness, which is the natural state of the Dharma and the True Path of man on earth; all true paths lead through mountains-

Trampling underfoot wasteful freeways and needless suburbs;

smashing the worms of capitalism and totalitarianism;

Indicating the Task: his followers, becoming free of cars, houses, canned food, universities, and shoes, master the Three Mysteries of their own Body, Speech, and Mind; and fearlessly chop down the rotten trees and prune out the sick limbs of this country.

Can you imagine such a politically spirited, slightly naive but powerful eco-manifesto having followers today? Where is Smokey the Bear in 2008?

I don’t know.