What does “wild” mean? What does it mean to “rewild”?
What does it mean to “tame” or “domesticate”?
Looking at domesticated animals (including humans), I see a relationship built on dependence. This dependence atrophies natural faculties, natural gifts. Look at domestic dogs…we’ve bred certain traits into them, at the cost of their operational intelligence. Search the internet for stories about captive or wild wolves and you’ll see the vast gulf between a wild and a domesticated mind.
So, for me I can proceed from there to look at the domesticated human, versus the wild one. Certainly tribal peoples depended on each other, but I’d say we’d call the relationship more accurately interdependence. A peer relationship, in a sense. Conversely, dependence implies a one-way hierarchy.
More than anything, to me, wild means free.
Why do all our cultural connotations of the word “wild” connect to crazyness, erraticness, unpredictability, aggressiveness?
How can we say “wild and free” in one breath (a common cliche), and “wild and crazy” in the next (another common cliche).
Does wild mean crazy, or does it mean free? Perhaps we connect those ideas because our culture fears what it cannot control, what it cannot domesticate, what it cannot render dependent.
The more I talk about this, the more I again see the prison walls and cells of our culture, the too-real metaphor offered by Daniel Quinn, in his book Ishmael.
So then, to rewild means to set free.
To set free, means to escape dependence.
To escape dependence, means to reclaim one’s natural gifts.
To to reclaim one’s natural gifts means to become interdependent.
My friend Rod McAfee, a Akimel O’odham native from Arizona, calls this process, “the Natural Way”.
Our culture has a long tradition of the archetypal and anti-social “mountain man”, who has run away to the wilderness to escape contact with other human beings. How does this person differ from any other kind of recluse? They have little in common with tribal peoples, except in how they feed and shelter themselves.
Rewilding doesn’t mean running away from people. It means finally running back to people.
Running back into the arms of family, of friends, of interdependence.
And always, family includes more than just humans, but the entire landbase, the living place of interacting relations where we live.
Someday I won’t have to even say that last part.