Tag Archive 'alienation'

Sep 30 2009

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Alienation and the Wild

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A month after hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness, I still feel the tug of the wild.  This wouldn’t be a problem if society weren’t pulling me in a different direction.  Oh sure, I have my circle of friends who know and love the wild as much as I do, but society at large seems to be disconnected from it.  And that puts every woods wanderer in a tight spot.

How can one maintain a connection to both society and the wild?  It’s tricky, to say the least.  I didn’t invent this conundrum.  Thoreau wrestled with it a hundred and fifty years ago, as did every other 19th Century woods wanderer.  Entire communities have arisen to address this problem.  Maybe I should join one.  But no, beneath every such community lurks a religious, social or political agenda of some sort.  And the one thing the wild teaches you is to go your own way.

A wild animal is, by definition, one that isn’t caged.  Same goes for a man or woman.  I ran wild for a couple weeks in the Maine Woods.  Now here I am, hustling to make a buck, promoting my so-called literary career, and trying my best to treat others decently in the process.  I get up every morning and read the newspaper.  My wife and I discuss the state of affairs over coffee and breakfast, then we set to work on one thing or another.  I’m rarely bored by society at large.  All the same, I can’t quite relate to it.

The health care fight and other congressional debacles; pirates, scam artists, ad men and drug traffickers; rogue nations with big missiles they call dongs; lawyers and lies; broke desperadoes living in motels; angry demonstrators raising their fists for peace and love – the list goes on.  Homo sapiens is, above all else, a patently absurd creature.  Am I any different?  Of course not, but at least I know what a fool I am.  Most people take themselves way too seriously.

Perhaps the word “alienation” is too strong.  It’s more of an inner tension, really, between conflicting interests and realities.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like being clean, dry and warm.  I like waking up next to my wife in a soft bed, making myself a cup of coffee with the mere push of a button, and eating whatever I feel like eating.  This cushy, utterly civilized life has its amenities, no doubt.  But there are times when my gut reacts violently to it.  There are times when I read something and feel an overwhelming desire to throw up.

Maybe it’s just the printer’s ink.  Maybe it’s those perfumed swatches inserted in newspapers and magazines that are making me sick.  Maybe I should stop reading altogether, go crawl into a hole and stay there.  But no, denial won’t resolve this matter.  Somehow, someway, I’ve got to bring the wild home and keep it there.  Somehow I have to bring society and the wild together.  Good luck with that!  Thoreau couldn’t do it.  What makes me think I can?

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