john muir quote

EP 15: John Muir Quote “The power of imagination makes us infinite”

In this episode of the Merkol Podcast, we analyzed the John Muir Quote. The quote goes:

“The power of imagination makes us infinite”

John Muir Quote
John Muir Quote “The power of imagination makes us infinite”
John Muir Quote “The power of imagination makes us infinite”

Who is John Muir?

The below content has been taken from Wikipedia and Sierra Club.

John Muir is otherwise called “John of the Mountains” and “Father of the National Parks” was an early supporter for the protection of the wild in the United States of America.

John Muir’s Birthplace is a four-story stone house in Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland. His folks were Daniel Muir and Ann Gilrye. He was the third of eight kids. In his collection of memoirs, he depicted his childhood interests, which included battling, either by re-sanctioning heartfelt fights from the Wars of Scottish Independence or simply rejecting on the jungle gym, and chasing after birds’ homes.

In 1849, Muir’s family moved to the United States, starting a ranch close to Portage, Wisconsin, called Fountain Lake Farm. It has been assigned a National Historic Landmark. At the point when he was 22 years of age, Muir got selected at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, taking care of himself financially for a considerable length of time.

There, under a transcending dark beetle tree adjacent to North Hall, Muir took his first botany lesson. His friend culled a blossom from the tree and utilized it to clarify how the excellent beetle is an individual from the pea family, identified with the straying pea plant. After fifty years, the naturalist Muir depicted the day in his life account. “This fine illustration enchanted me and sent me traveling to the forest in wild energy”

It was California’s Sierra Nevada and Yosemite that truly claimed him. In 1868, he walked across the San Joaquin Valley through waist-high wildflowers and into the high country for the first time. Later he would call the Sierra Nevada the Range of Light. He herded sheep through that first summer and made his home in Yosemite.

Famous men of the time – Joseph LeConte, Asa Gray, and Ralph Waldo Emerson – made their way to the door of his pine cabin.

In later years he turned more seriously to writing, publishing 300 articles and 10 major books that recounted his travels, expounded his naturalist philosophy.

Through a series of articles appearing in Century magazine, Muir drew attention to the devastation of mountain meadows and forests by sheep and cattle. With the help of Century’s associate editor, Robert Underwood Johnson, Muir worked to remedy this destruction.

In 1890, due in large part to the efforts of Muir and Johnson, an act of Congress created Yosemite National Park. Muir was also personally involved in the creation of Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon national parks.

Muir deservedly is often called the “Father of Our National Park System”.

What does this John Muir quote mean?

Everything around us is the imagination of someone else. Just think about it.

Look to your right, you see a table. It may not exist if someone did not have a need in the first place. But the first design for a table must have been imagined or envisioned first in the brain before putting it out on a piece of paper. I may be wrong, but that very design of the first table which was imagined could be the birth of the entire furniture industry.

This is an ideal case of zero to one.

Zero to One

This is a concept first coined by Peter Thiel in his highly rated book of the same name.

Let me illustrate this concept further for you. Every business you see around you is just an iteration of another. Let’s take the food business. The concept of a restaurant is so ubiquitous that one is present in almost every street corner of the world.

But these restaurants are all not very different in terms of the concept of a restaurant.

What is a restaurant? A place where they cook and provide food for you so that you can save time on cooking and eat well.

The person who started the first restaurant or the person who preached the idea for the first restaurant was Boulanger. According to an often-repeated account that was first published in 1853, the first restaurant was opened in 1765 by a Parisian named Boulanger. I don’t know how accurate this is, but let’s go with it.

The Story of Mr. Boulanger. A few years ago, I read a story in… | by  Transparent Kitchen | Medium
Boulanger. Medium: Story of Boulanger (Must Read)

Boulanger is the person who went from Zero to One. The zero indicates that there was no concept of a restaurant in the first place. Boulanger imagined about it and had the willpower and belief in his imagination to begin working on its execution.

Execution is really important. But rather than explaining its importance myself, I will let a person who has done it talk about it,

“Everyone has an idea. But it’s really about executing the idea and attracting other people to help you work on the idea.”

Jack Dorsey – CEO of Twitter

With the help of Boulanger’s execution, he took his concept from nothing to 1, more precisely zero to one. Then other people came along and revolutionized his idea, but they are all just iterations of that 1 that Boulangerbrought into this world through his imagination.

Let it be a Chinese cuisine restaurant, outdoor seating restaurant, fast food restaurant, fine dining restaurant, hot pot restaurant, momo restaurant, cafes, etc are all the same iterations of that 1.

Similarly, everything around is built on the power of imagination. Consider banks, people imagined they needed a safe place to store money and created banks and a thesis on how banks can be profitable. This is zero to one. Now people have imagined and come up with a concept of decentralized finance which negates the use of banks. This is again zero to one (Satoshi Nakamoto).

If you want to build something, you need to imagine it. Believe in it. Then execute it.

But every great invention starts with just an imagination of how the world can be better. Just ask Elon Musk.

This is what John Muir is also trying to tell us through his quote. In the early days, people never even knew they could have another mode of transportation other than their legs, but now we are talking about flying cars and hyper loops.

The power of imagination truly makes us infinite.

The negative aspect of imagination

We have seen the powers of imagination. But as we all know,

“With great power there must also come great responsibility”

Uncle Ben – Spiderman

So let me paint you a picture of how bad things could get if we allow the power of imagination to take over us.

The misuse of imagination can cause a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that push away the present reality in favor of dreamt-up scenarios and outcomes.

When I let my imagination run wild building the worst possible situations, I find that my emotions follow along as if it were actually happening. I can feel the change in my heartbeat and in my breathing – these imaginations directly affect my body.

Probably the single most dangerous aspect of human imagination is the sense of “want” which is unique to humans, as opposed to “need” which every animal feels.

We are now capable of always imagining more so that no matter how much we may have in the way of wealth and security, we can always imagine that it is not enough.

This creates imaginary “scarcity” and scarcity, real or unreal, is the root of all human social unrest and suffering.

This deserves a separate post in itself, so I will leave this article at this point.


To be able to escape into a world of wonder and creativity is magnificent, and for those who are willing enough, to be able to bring back some of that magic, in the forms of literature, music, movement, products, inventions, and visual arts, what a gift to all.


I have recorded a podcast on this John Muir Quote. But it is in Tamil. If you know the language, then please do listen to this. Do let me know if you like it. Here is the link:

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