“Rewilding,” a term coined by Animá Center’s Jesse Wolf Hardin in 1976, first saw print in in 1986 in the following serialized essay. As a result, Wolf was assigned to write the Rewilding entry on page 1383, Vol. 2 of The Encyclopedia of Religion & Nature (Thoemmes Continuum, 2005). Given the current economic and social conditions, this way of being and living is more crucial and urgent than ever. I encourage you to forward this 5 part series to others, by clicking on the “Share This Post” button below. Blessings. -Kiva Rose
The Rewilding: Part 4 (of 6:
By Jesse Wolf Hardin (www.animacenter.org)
“Ah! What avails the classic bent
And what the cultured word,
Against the undoctored incident
That actually occurred?”
“Culture, the acquainting ourselves with the best that has been known and said in the world, and thus with the history of human spirit.”
We are impelled by a wild imperative that finds form and purpose both in our individual beings and in our natural associations, and one that can be evoked, manifest, shared and passed down through the medium of a rewilding culture.
The world “culture” comes from the Latin “Cultura,” meaning “to cultivate.” Hence, it is the deliberate development and nourishment of human expression. Far more than just being the administered accumulation of ideas and works, it is the milieu through with we express and extend our selves and our intentions, manifest group values and aesthetics. Across most of the planet today we find evidence of an increasingly standardized paradigm, with the same polyester tee shirts appearing on the backs of indigenous Arctic fishermen as on New York City shoppers, matching shopping centers on nearly ever continent, and a generally accepted system of commercialism and escapism, resource depletion and disposable products, legislated behavior and intrusive militarism. Sports icons, movie stars, a beer drinking dog, politicians, rock stars and Mickey Mouse all work to increase the material consumption of everyone in civilization’s increasingly uniform technoculture.
In contrast, the wild cultures of the past were by nature and by design native, speaking to the needs of the natural human inseparable from place and home. They were appropriately place-based, and their cultures are reflections of and servants to the character of the land and community of life they were a part of. And they were tribal, with a social order that despite any inequities develops organically from within rather than being imposed from outside, meeting the needs and requirements of a shared set of values. Their art and rituals tended to be celebrations of present time, the creative force, the delight of form and function, the pleasure of the purposeful, the bounty of the earth and the gifts they gave in return.
To qualify as truly wild and healthy, associations today need to be based on common vision and interests instead of class, color or income, and contribute to our interaction with and caring for the rest of the planet. They must be made up of self empowered individuals – guided or inspired by tribal elders functioning as repositories of wisdom and experience – yet answering first and foremost to themselves. Unlike with anarchism as it is commonly defined, they do not seek either disorder or exemption from accountability but rather an honest, participatory, dynamic position within a natural, organically evolving order. They recognize no static obligations per se, but honor their natural responsibilities to their bodies and spirits, needs, beliefs, families, alliances, community, future generations and the land. They assume responsibility for both their actions and those ways that they choose not to act, manifest or intercede.
Wild society must by nature must be not only self perpetuating, but have sustainable qualities. Thus wild economics is based not on endless growth but on the balance between human and non-human populations, between what we give to the earth and what we must take to meet our minimum physical requirements. Wild economics are by nature locally based and regionally self sufficient, with foods grown nearby and few materials and even fewer finished goods imported from outside of one’s bioregion, thus eliminating colonization and destructive exploitation by better financed interests or techno-industrial global powers. Taxes are minimal or nonexistent, service is rewarded, trade and barter are encouraged. Investments are local, and credit personal rather than institutional. Rewilding people are naturally social activists seeking betterment… but to the extent that they are still unable to change the system, they work to create a workable wild culture within but irrespective of the existing dominant order.
Given the pandemic spread of the modern global technoculture, what can we do to initiate the necessary rewilding? Urban based folks can reclaim their creature independence from the political and social shell that encase them, minimizing their participation in and support of the systems of government, class and consumer fad. Even law – the gun-muzzle of society, the glue holding disparate social entities together under a common political flag – is an imposition to be questioned and at times violated out of personal conscience. Most regulations are designed to enforce someone else’s morality, ensure conformity, and systemize the incestuous relationship between exploitive economics and the agencies of control. Of the literally hundreds of new state and federal laws passed each and every day, only a few address murders, rapes or theft, and even then they are a mechanism of punishment and not prevention. The rewilded individual chooses to honor and protect rather than to rob or harm, not out of obedience to some law but in response to their personal sense of right and code of honor.
In the process of personal and cultural rewilding, it always helps to question authority, assess dogma, challenge habit, intuit need and circumstance, reconsider ways of interacting, and turn to nature for example and instruction in a more meaningful, healthful, giving and satisfying life. To dismember assumption and get past our self doubt and fear. To recall our needs, hopes and dreams, and then begin acting to realize, sate and fulfill them. To turn off or sell the television and instead help create beautiful songs, inspiring plays and liberating dances. To unplug the telephone and write more letters, books and poems. To talk in person more, and increasingly only about the most real and relevant subjects, and to plumb and benefit from silent time. To make planter boxes out of automobiles, then ride bikes and walk more. To come to know the world up close rather than traveling to lots of places and only experiencing them superficially. To become intimate with our home and place, and make the growing and preparation of food both art and prayer. To find or create jobs that nourish our spirits, utilize our gifts, further our purpose. To give the best of ourselves to a mission or service, act on our trustworthy instincts, and assist in the creation of a wilder, more genuine, vital, conscious and compassionate culture. To personally help craft a masterpiece of deep integrity and sublime subtlety – regardless of prevailing constraints or certain costs – out of the native materials of our miraculous mortal lives.
As I write this, the pace of modern civilization’s dissolution is accelerating, with already overly powerful central governments taking over speculative financial institutions in the hope of stemming the system’s complete collapse. The official response to natural corrections in the market and our shifting perception has been greater regulation, further disempowering the populous, stripping away self belief and limiting the impetus for change. For this reason and more, the time to change how we interact with the world is now. Never before in the history of humankind has there been a more urgent need for us to act literally outside of the box, re-envisioning, reinventing, regionalizing and rewilding our cultures as we reawaken, reposition and rewild ourselves.
(photos (c)2008 by Jesse Wolf Hardin)