The Toxicity and Vitality of Rightness and Wrongness

Much of what keeps us imprisoned in modern civilization amounts to unarticulated webs of shoulds and oughts, rights and wrongs. I’ve written about this before, in terms of the Grave of Right and Wrong (and podcasted too).

But the more I understand my own path of Rewilding, the more I understand a certain process underway in my life.  Namely, in order to abandon old  models of “rightness/wrongness”, and old uses for the models, I need to create newer ones that affirm life.

If every culture has their own Right way (including healthy indigenous ones), it means that when faced with a “wrong” way, you can meet a dialogue like this:

A: “We just don’t do it that way.”

B: “Why not?”

A: “We just don’t. A sensible person doesn’t do that.”

B: “But have you ever tried it?”

A: “No, only a foolish person would.”

Think of a traditional animist’s reaction to someone saying “hey, try treating everything as unliving, dead stuff, devoid of personhood”. They would probably laugh, walk away, scowl, or shake their head at such a proposal.

This indicates unarticulated wisdom; wisdom acquired through immersion in a culture, not through lectures, information, or questioning. It doesn’t need explaining; you can feel it in your bones.

I can imagine it surprising a reader to discover that I support this kind of almost unreflected “wisdom”, but it would only surprise a member of civilization, the sole culture in human history against which its members must defend themselves by deconstructing its fiendish paradoxes, traps, and devil’s bargains.

Traditionally, you could depend on your culture to unthinkingly protect you, to back you up, because time had tested and shaped it.

Only now do we find ourselves the slave labor force for the cultural monster bent on devouring the world.

My point? Abandon the Rights and Wrongs of this culture, walk away from that way of thinking for a goodly while. Use new measures (“does this action affirm life? create more of what I want – stronger family, healthier land?”) with which to evaluate the results of your actions and behaviors.

At some point, you will naturally discover that you don’t articulate these “new ways” anymore, and I guarantee you that your ways will differ from mine. But embrace these, just as you would embrace the unblinking adherence of an indigenous adult to traditions that affirm life. You will naturally find that you have a “Right Way” for you and your people again, without planning or ideology, and without discussion or enforcement.

Importantly, more and more, I see unarticulated wisdom as the most powerful, and long-term surviving, form of culture. If you participate in a discussion about your deeply held values, experiences, or relationships, you may discover that suddenly they seem less real, less important, less alive. You may begin to doubt them.

You may have already heard of the common tradition of  “not discussing sacred things or ceremonies”. This means these things go directly into that realm of protected, powerful, unarticulated cultural forces, that will survive and protect you and your descendants. Articulation with the wrong people, in the wrong environment, can kill this powerful, unarticulated, unintellectualized wisdom. Engaging in a conversation with the colonizer can sound the death knell for a traditional person, whether a new rewilder or one belonging to an animist culture that goes back to the dawn of time.

We live in a bottlenecked time of danger, where we may lose many things, many of us suffer spiritual (once again, I have no better word, still working on it) injury, many cultures and languages will disappear, much rewilding will suffocate or homogenize back into the colonizing power of civilization.

Treat your animist relationships and traditional values as priceless treasure, and sacred things. Perhaps work to someday allow them an unarticulated influence over your life, a silent courtship that provides constant companionship.

For those like myself, foolish enough to articulate the better-left-unsaid, I confess to the danger. Setting aside even that my story may simply not apply to your rewilding in any case, putting out there provides room for critique, the microscope of intellect, the razor of mind.

I’ve adapted to this by no longer “discussing” the reasonableness of my experiences, or relationships. I don’t engage, evangelize, or debate when it comes to the animism side of my rewilding. I’ll tell my Story, but I won’t make time for a critique of it. In this way I do the best I can, because for whatever reason I’ve acquired the passion to wake up as many fellow animists as possible to what they already experience and long for.

Written by Willem