Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Of wilderness and warriors

Belyaev’s experiments on Russian silver foxes showed that when the foxes were selected for “tameness” they lost their wild type coat with their rich sheen and complex color (check out the video here: The foxes became mottled, ugly shadows of their flourishing wild type ancestors. They lost their adrenaline – the wildness hormone that fueled their beauty and vigor. And we humans may be in a similar situation. We have domesticated ourselves through our own ingenuity and our own institutions, and we have become ugly, overweight, tamed animals. And now we pine for lack of wilderness, the old growth forests and the expansive skies dotted with buffalo shadows. But perhaps we pine for lack of our own wildness. This is the power of movies like “Fight Club”. This is why many prefer the World of Warcraft to their own humdrum lives. We need more adrenaline, more danger and more excitement in our world. We want to be beautiful warriors once again. We environmentalists and wilderness activists might do well to understand that the outer world is just a reflection of our inner world. We humans are creators in so many ways. We dream our own world into existence- individually and at the community and cultural levels. Sure, we have gained so much by our own self-domestication. Before we dreamed agriculture into existence, villages, communities, laws and universities- before all of this where were we? But if there is no wilderness left within us, there will be no place for wilderness outside of us. We must preserve wilderness, but we must also preserve some of the wilderness within ourselves. We can dream wilderness back into existence. Not that we should join some sort of environmentalist fight club, but maybe we need to walk out into the fire more often, engage ourselves in a frontier where we must fight to protect ourselves and the people and places we love.

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