TERRY: And what e=ect would you say the Utah wilderness had on you as a young man?
TIM: Well, it put me in perspective. I think especially
the western landscapes have done that for me because
they’re so big and so open. You know, when you spend all
your time in a little room, you feel very big and very important, and everything that happens to you is a big deal.
And when you’re out in the desert, you see that you’re
really small. And that’s a very liberating sense—of being very small. Every little thing that happens to you isn’t
that big a deal. Going to prison for a few years — it’s not
that big a deal. But also just my views on how to live,
and what actually makes me happy; how to form a little
community out there with a few people; how human actions really work when there isn’t a TV telling us what
to do — that all formed out there. And I think that’s part
of why some people fight against wilderness, fight to extinguish all of it. I mean, I think there’s definitely a lot
of folks who don’t understand it, and have never experienced it. But I think some of the opponents of wilderness really do understand it. They understand . . .
TERRY: Its power.
TIM: That it’s a place where people can think freely. Tyranny can never be complete as long as there’s wilderness. But eventually I wanted to come back. And that’s
where I see one of those lessons of Jesus going out to
the wilderness for a long time and then coming back
and being an activist. What I experienced when I came
out of the wilderness and went back to school was just
outrage with society. And complete intolerance for the
world. Just constantly saying, “How the hell could people live this way? How the hell could people accept this
as being okay?” So many things about our society, I just
kept looking at them after being in the wilderness for so
long and saying, “How the hell could people accept this?
This is outrageous.” And I think that’s one of the things
that the wilderness does for us, you know, it allows us to
live the way we actually want to live for a while. It puts
things in the perspective of, “Wait, this isn’t inevitable.
It doesn’t actually have to be this way. And this isn’t the
way I want to live. It’s not okay.” I think activism at its
best is refusing to accept things. Saying that this is unacceptable. And I felt that so strongly sitting there at the
auction, watching parcels go for eight or ten dollars an
I THINK THAT’S ONE OF THE
THINGS THAT THE WILDERNESS
DOES FOR US, YOU KNOW, IT
ALLOWS US TO LIVE THE WAY
WE ACTUALLY WANT TO LIVE FOR
A WHILE. IT PUTS THINGS IN
acre. I mean that’s why I first started bidding—just to
drive up the prices— because I had this overwhelming
sense that this is not acceptable.
TERRY: I remember having a conversation with Breyten Breytenbach, who wrote The True Confessions of
an Albino Terrorist, who spent time in prison in South
Africa for being anti-apartheid. We were in a bus driving to Mexico City, and he said to me, “You Americans,
you’ve mastered the art of living with the unacceptable.”
And that haunted me. For decades, his statement has
haunted me. From that point forward, I’ve kept thinking
about what is unacceptable. And that’s what I hear you
saying: that it was unacceptable from your standpoint
that these public lands, these wild places that you knew
by name and in a very physical, spiritual way, were being
sold for eight dollars an acre.
TIM: Mmhmm. There’s so much acceptance. And, I
don’t know, I think tolerance is the enemy of activism.
TERRY: That’s interesting. Because if you talk about empathy, and turning the other cheek, then tolerance takes
on another definition. Doesn’t it?
TIM: I don’t know. I wouldn’t consider turning the other
cheek “tolerating violence.”
TERRY: What’s the di=erence between tolerance and
compassion? I don’t mean tolerating a situation, but really practicing tolerance.