They tried to tame you
Looks like they’ll try again
Wild boys never lose it
Wild boys never chose this way
Wild boys never close your eyes
Wild boys always shine
Duran Duran, Wild Boys
I’ve been writing for some time about developing new ways to live. Building Community, Open and Honest Communication, Animism, Truly Sustainable Practices… but I haven’t written about the core concept beneath all these issues: Human Domestication.
Just like our farm animals, our house pets, our food and ornamental plants, human animals have become domesticated within civilization. We have become accustomed to living by rules dictated by something other than our genetic predisposition, in social structures and physical settings that are ill suited to our fundamental nature, with little to no interaction with the natural world that sustains us: we have built for ourselves a prison with bars of culture and assumption, dogma and rhetoric. Just as our domesticated plants and animals have difficulty surviving without human assistance (noting that the most domesticated species cannot survive without us), civilized humans find it difficult, or impossible, to survive without the trappings of civilization providing for our basic needs (food, shelter, clothing).
By contrast, wild animals, including wild humans, are taught from the time they become self-ambulatory how to survive in the world. Hunting, edible plants, effective materials to use for shelter or clothing or tools, techniques for efficiently processing foods or materials… all of these things are well known by adolescence. Likewise, social animals are also fully versed in custom, taboo and social mores that tell them how to live in the world.
In our modern, civilized cultures, we are also taught how to live in the world by our customs, laws and religious institutions. However, the interaction is very different. Amongst wild populations, custom, taboo and mores protect the group by protecting the individuals within the group. This allows a certain flexibility in time and space. Whereas in modern civilization our customs, laws and religious institutions are designed to protect civilization itself regardless of the effect they may have on individuals. This allows reactionary effects (ie, counter cultures, crime, blasphemy) to be absorbed into the system without damage to the system itself.
I could discuss all of this in greater detail, but for the moment I am more interested in what this implies for those of us looking for a new way of living, a way of living outside of the civilized system. I have spoken of rewilding our plants and animals, but of equal or greater importance is rewilding ourselves. Learning the tools and techniques o provide for ourselves in the world is an important step, but of even greater importance is learning how to reject the bars we carry within our minds. How to live without the constraint – and the security – they provide. This involves many things: learning the skills of community and communication, permaculture, and herbology, take away much of the fear; exploring animism changes the way I see the world. But every time I feel like I’m making progress, something opens my eyes to my own “inmate behaviors.
* * *
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because in the last few weeks, I have come to realize that over recent months I have met and come to know someone that is truly feral. He calls himself a traveler. A musician by trade. He’s been walking away from his life for new places and experiences – and then writing about it – since adolescence. Some of his stories amaze me, some make me cry, others make me laugh, sometimes he frightens me.
He told me a story once, of his eleven year old self going out into the woods near his home, picking blue (psychedelic) mushrooms, building a fire and brewing some of them into tea and then munching the rest of them. This was his first drug experience, his first mushroom hunting experience, and he went out alone, as a pre-adolescent, with only a book for company…. perhaps my generation, particularly the suburban segment of my generation, was sheltered… but I find myself completely amazed by this.
During the time I knew him, he got himself into some trouble and spent ninety days in the local jail. Again he surprised me… I expected the confinement to be a soul killing experience for a personality life his. But it wasn’t. He handled it the same way he always seems to deal with life: one day at a time. I am here and this is what I’m doing, so how can I make the best of it. A recurring conversation we had: no matter how much shit happens, life is good. Not just in general or in theory, but right now, every moment, life is good.
A few weeks ago it was time for him to travel again. He had a job, had just payed his next months rent so he was broke, he was… legally constrained to stay put… but none of that mattered. I freaked out, I was scared and I was flabbergasted. He left and I have not heard from him since. But I have come to understand it.
In his mind, the feral mind, the customs, laws, institutions, that we live by are no more than suggestions. The expectations of others (even those we love) have little more hold than dusty cobwebs, and now is the only time that matters – or even exists. As a result, choices and decisions are made based very much on what oneself feels, wants, needs at a single moment in time. It is a harsh way to live in some ways, for oneself as well as those one travels with (for however long paths converge), but in order to step beyond civilization, to find a truly new way of living, the feral mind may be a necessary stage to pass through.
In any case, this friendship has been, for me, an important experience to understand. I don’t know if I, myself, will ever truly approach the feral mind. And I don’t know if it is possible for an individual to pass through and beyond within a single lifetime. But it does help me to understand how deeply I have internalized our cultural prison and how much work I have to do to overcome it.
As to my friend, the traveler… who knows? He will continue to live life fully, living in the hands of the gods, traveling and telling his stories whatever shit may happen along the way. Perhaps one day I will see him again – I believe that I will. But that is not something to concern myself with now. I just know that if I do see him again it will be easy, two travelers following the same path for a time. As it should be