For the purposes of this article I will use the words untamed, wild, animal, undomesticated, aliveness and free interchangeably. I will also use, caged, domesticated, trapped, and half alive in the same manner.
What it Means to be Tamed and to Rewild
1. to reverse the process of domestication.
2. to return to a more wild or self-willed state.
Modern day humans are in many ways still Paleolithic hunter gathers, designed by evolution to exist as wild animals on planet earth. The reality that we currently exist within, as domesticated humans, is in many ways contrary to that innate architecture. I will not put a value judgement on this move into organized society, I am only pointing out that the current set-up is not one that jives with how we evolved to be thus far.
It is possible that in the grander scheme of things, that organized society is a stepping stone to something better.
Evolution is constant force of nature that is inescapable and far be it for me to have any inkling as to what purpose civilization has in the larger scheme of things. My purpose and intent, is and will always be, on how to be more alive and free in today’s world.
Being wild and untamed means many things to many different people. Some people, usually heavily domesticated ones, believe it means losing all control, being a “savage” who is ravenous and has no conscious sense of himself.
Some people think it means learning the skills of hunter gathers and adopting some of the life style habits that our ancestors lived with, and personally, I think that is big piece of the puzzle, as those are quite literally the innate patterns of wild humans; however that can sometimes drive our focus so far back, that we cannot see forward, by inducing ancestral nostalgia.
In our quest to “rewild”, I think it is important to understand what it is that we are searching for. In the end, what I personally feel most of us seek is an inner state first and foremost, above and beyond an outer one. We want to be in touch with the wild fire that burns in our bellies.
It is feelings on both ends of the spectrum that drive us towards this path. Depression, anxiety, meaninglessness and disillusion with the modern concrete world, drive us back into the primal one, where we feel connection, meaning, wonder, magic, belonging, homage and purpose. Many us have come to this movement for health reasons and have discovered renewed layers of vitality, that remained hidden to us, while living the zoo life.
Being in nature, being with other species of animals and learning ancient skills, to many us, just feels “right”, and helps us to rewild. However, can we say that to partake in things that are not directly “ancestral” makes us “not wild”? Personally, I do not believe this is the case. This leads to the title of this post and the question of “what does it mean to be untamed in the 21st century”?
"First off, it’s worth examining what it means to be domesticated. In the most basic sense, to be domesticated is to be tame. Tame animals are not dangerous. They are easy to manage and hard to provoke. Their adrenal response, the cause of the fight-or-flight reflex, is tamped down. In some sense, this is neoteny in behavior- the lifelong preservation of the trust, playfulness, and sociability of youth.”- Allison Guy
To answer that question, it is useful to understand what being domesticated means, if we are qualifying wild, by not being domesticated. There are multiple aspects that affect this scale between tame and wild. For instance, the cultivation of neotenous behavior; neotony is the preservation of youth into adulthood, so that an animal never actually “matures” and thus remains a child it’s whole life in some ways. This is done in order to make the animal easier to manage and lead. In doing so it receives predictability, food and safety.
The only requirement is that it releases its freedom.
Another element is that the reproductive capacities of the animal are controlled by either neutering or directing its usage. In many ways to be tame is to be half alive because, overall, the animal’s sense of “self direction”, drive and will, is eliminated and the animals sense of purpose has become the prerogative of whoever it is who is doing the domesticating.
If we look around at the state of the modern world, many of the above mentioned attributes can be readily seen in certain very large populations. The masses are easily lead and directed. Religion and politics try to control every aspect of our lives and either of the two, can affect policies that can control our reproductive self-direction.
Here we have major institutions leading us, controlling what many of us are exposed to, what we can consume and who we can have sex with.
Thinking for ourselves or taking control over what we put into our bodies, how we move, who and how we have sex and how we relate to nature, is less common because we are indoctrinated into a domesticated way of relating to the world. Some can escape it on their own and others do not, why some do and others don’t I do not know.
Remaining a Child your Whole Life
1. the retention of juvenile features in the adult animal.
The world is shitstorm of projecting and blaming, with little responsibility owned. Natural resources suffer, because humanity acts like a big baby, carelessly sucking on the tit of the earth, whining that it wants it now. That is neotony all the way. The craziest thing is that in our case, we have done it to ourselves. We are the zoo keeper and the animal contained within it. We hold the key.
"Juvenile behavior was developed to protect children of any species from doing too much stupid shit that will get them killed. That someone discovered how to foster that state into adulthood is one of histories great tragedies” Mushtaq Ali Ansari
We do not have many references, or shining examples to pull out with scientific authority and say, “yes, this is a wild human in our society”.
In my experience/perception being “wild and untamed” as a hunter gather living in a tribe, is in some ways a very different thing, compared to when you are discussing someone who thrives and contributes to the modern world. Are they mutually exclusive? Personally, I don’t think so.
To Be Untamed
To me, untamed is in many ways internal, in the sense that it is not an external activity in “particular” that is required “as much” as I want my mind, emotions, body, and spirit to be free. You can get there through Kung fu, Qi Gong, and meditation or through “primal movement”, gardening, and walking your dogs, or through Rolfing and bioenergetics.
The real cage is the one built around our minds, hearts and guts, that separates us from our true nature. Of course to say that it is only internal is not exactly accurate either, but I think true rewilding moves from the inside out even if you have to start from the outside in.
You can be physically strong, and still be trapped inside a neurotic cage. You can be a hunter and not be connected to the land or even destroy it for profit. You can train ancestral movement, but not be able to express the wild animal that is within, in an authentic manner that is not subdued. It is more than a set of practices; it is a state of being.
To me, to be untamed is to live your life the way you see fit, free from imagined burdens, conventions or limitations.; to be free of imaginary restrictions placed on you by society. It means being self-possessed. It means maturing fully, taking on responsibility for yourself and the whole human tribe, by contributing to the world.
It means waking up to the reality that we live inside nature, as an integral part of it, it is not just a stage for us to act our stories on. It means being vital, connected to your body, purpose driven, energetic, playful, loving, fierce, fully alive, authentic, dangerous, resilient, real and present. If we become fully alive, then we have become unchained. We can have all these traits regardless of whether not we live a forest life; we can be a CEO and still be those things.
We must not try to become our tribal ancestors, for we cannot, however we can become authentically free in today’s modern world.
I live and work at Wolf Sanctuary at the moment, and I can absolutely say that wolves have been fantastic teachers in this “self direction” (and many of the qualities expressed above). There are many wild animals that can be tamed to some degree, but not so much with a pure wolf. You cannot “tell” a wolf what to do, you can reason with it however, and ask it to work with you in certain ways, it might comply and it might not. They are self possessed, their spirit cannot be easily dominated, whether or not they were raised in captivity. They decide to comply based off of their own volition.
Trying to force a wolf to do something it does not want to do causes it an enormous amount of stress, they might die of heart attack before they jump through a ring of fire.
We need some of that, especially where it matters. Even though, other animals can be great teachers in this “wild spirit”, we must not get in the trap that tells us that we must be acting like a wolf to be an animal, human activity, dwellings and ways of life, are the patterns of animals; humans are animals, we just have to remember and embrace that fact.
Much of the rewilding movement relates to lifestyle changes, practices and skills; this is fantastic of course, as these behaviors can have direct pathways to the state we want to unleash within ourselves. Some of us want these skills for their practical use alone or for health reasons, while others want them in order to reconnect to something ancient; personally I want them for all those reasons.
For those of us seeking freedom, we must remember, the external activity is a way to untame the spirit and unlock the truth of who we are in our full glory, so that we may live in a different way. Many of us are like flowers that have yet to bloom.
Overall, in end, it is my opinion, that being untamed in the 21st century is going to depend on the state of our spirit, more than anything else and in reality, it likely would have been the same for our ancestors, the only difference is that the world they lived in, did not try to cage and leash their spirit, the way that ours currently does.
With this, I leave you with practices, perceptual modes and suggestions that can perhaps assist some in their pursuit to flourish and mature fully. This is just my personal list and reflects how I approach this process; there are likely countless ways to get there.
- Maturity and self-possession
- Moving your body with freedom and ownership
- Eating like our ancestors
- Being connected with and spending time in nature
- Being a social animal
- Breathing fully
- Undoing emotional repression
- Freedom from domesticated ideals
- Hunting , gathering and growing your own food
- Bush craft
- Connecting with your ancestors
- Having animist perspectives
- Ecstatic sex
- Being with other animals
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Bioenergetics/ Body-Mind Psychology
- Martial art
“You need a little more animal energy. You are too sophisticated, too civilized, and that is crippling you. Too much civilization is a paralyzing thing. It is good in a small dose but too much of it is very dangerous. One should always remain capable of being an animal. Your animal has to be freed; that is the problem as I see it. If you can learn to be a little wild, all your problems will disappear. So start from tonight — and enjoy it!” –Osho