Wild child—safe in the wilderness

I think Eithne Ní Bhraonáin (Enya) gets a lot of what adventuring on life’s path is about—let’s hear her calling us to wander where that breeze lifts us (I apologize, this video is “disabled from embedding,” so it will direct you to a YouTube link):

“Wild child”—what a day for a wild child! How funny that some people can recoil from an idea like that. (I’ve known good people to visibly cringe a bit at the words, like flinching from a wasp.) Noooooo—no wild child! Good child! Must not run wild—! But good grief, it doesn’t have to mean someone running headlong over the nearest precipice, like a BASE jumper except without a ‘chute. Isn’t it pretty weird, that somehow we’ve come to associate wild with wrong, out of control, dangerous, or more or less you’re just not behaving—then meanwhile, we love getting away to breathe free out in nature.

Where by definition it’s wild. And doesn’t usually “behave”. Ah, I love being out in tame, manicured nature! isn’t typically something you hear vacationers or backpackers exulting when they’re out in, say, the Sierra tameness. Wilderness! I meant, wilderness. And isn’t that the same place we often call creation?

So which is it—doesn’t God know what he’s doing, by making his creation a wilderness instead of a tameness? I don’t think anyone would want that tradeoff. (Although there was a time, a couple of centuries or so back, when genteel European travelers would sometimes draw the curtains of their carriages to avoid seeing those unruly mutations on the landscape called mountains. Eeww, they weren’t manicured gardens!) Maybe what it is, is that we’re so used to cultivating the details around us (that’s easy to do) that we get out of touch with the rhythms of wild creation, as if a bird could forget how to fly.

(I know, you’re going to bring up examples of penguins and ostriches, who have evolved to do just that—stop it! Those are metaphors for another story!)

At the same time, we often admire and wish we could emulate—or recover—the instincts of indigenous peoples, whom we describe as being so much more “in touch with nature”. So why don’t we? It can’t be that hard, since obviously it never took some sort of advanced technology for humankind to have been in touch with nature through our entire history, up till the quaint modern societies that we like to call “developed”.

It’s only that we’ve grown afraid of the wild, even though that’s where we evolved, where God created us, and a few souvenirs of which he’s left with us (like the vesitigal tailbone, that we don’t like to think about because of its inescapably “animal” heritage, till our feet slip from under us on a wet or icy walk, and we take a hard buttslam on the pavement).

And maybe (to me, anyway) most curiouser of all, Jesus—who to many has become the very icon of safe, wholesome life, and (we wish) normal society—spent the most important years of his life wandering in often-borderline-wilderness, mostly orbiting outside the circles of “decent” folk, sometimes taking his disciples on excursions to untamed backcountry of God-knew-where, and ultimately giving them the cheery sendoff, “Off you go, then! Out into the whole world! See you!” (I picture them, frantically waving as he vanished into the clouds: “Uh—go exactly where, Lord?” Jesus [gesturing vaguely to the horizon]: “You know—that way.”)

But that way—into the wilderness, the life, we’ve grown afraid of, but which is exactly where we came from—is really the safest way, safe defined as this is where we were meant to be, where our hearts breathe freest.

A lot of  society, meanwhile, simply because it has grown to forget our native creation, aims to replace it by struggling to wring out of life some sort of meaning or just shallow satisfaction (life’s equivalent of stopping at a convenience store for one of those syrupy slushee drinks—yum! a frozen hummingbird-food daiquiri!). Often, that ends up taking the form of wringing satisfaction from one another, the saddest form of exploitation.

If you want a bit of visual putting the liberation of a wild child in perspective, how about this video from Enigma, of their song “Gravity of Love”. If you haven’t seen this before, you’ll find a young girl, seeming almost delirious and swathed in a shroud- or cocoonlike garment in the heart of a lavish mansion, while around her swirls a disturbingly dark, sensuous, masked ball, of people who scarcely notice her. Her eyes roll back, occasionally getting a glimpse of, perhaps, heaven beyond the great hall’s ceiling (which the others sometimes see too, but apparently ignore)—till the guests abruptly leave, wraithlike, their party evaporating. (Interestingly, beyond the swirling, self-absorbed party you’ll occasionally see three windows with large, crosslike frames, the moonlit open night beyond.)

Our last view of her, shaken free of her shroud, is now outside the mansion in the open night, lit as from  moonglow or by something within her—before she herself vanishes into that glimpse of heaven.

Wild, unknown, untamed heaven. A wild child at last, where it’s much safer. Whether we go into literal wilderness, or wander in Enya’s peaceable scenery, or see through our ceilings to our native, gloriously unknown life (“out there—that way!”), a wild child is the safest, freest thing to be. I hope you turn wild. What a day!

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One Response to Wild child—safe in the wilderness

  1. Roger Smith says:

    A friend’s post, which I saw after I posted this, mentioned the “antigravity” of grace, that lifts us up instead of life and our own struggles dragging us down. I didn’t think to mention here, though I could have, that “the gravity of love” does just that, too—its gravity lifts us up into wild, free life, and resists the weight of everything that wants to hold us down. Antigravity is wild, too!

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