A New Take on Rewilding or Can I Culturally Appropriate Myself?
Rewilding is a topic near and dear to my heart. I spent around five years in the late 2000's with a group of friends in Portland, Ore., helping to shape the movement before falling off the radar. My blog Pennyscout: Tracker of Plants, Breaker of Hearts (no longer up), made me a semi-rockstar in the tiny subculture of a subculture. I was even featured in this dissertation-cum-book: Guerillas in the Industrial Jungle: Radicalism's Primitive and Industrial Rhetoric by Ursula McTaggart. I went through some periods of apathy and misgivings over rewilding, but now I'm back...with a twist.
Let me back up and explain because rewilding still hasn't really hit the mainstream, and you might be wondering what it even is. If you google rewilding there are basically two kinds that come up. Conservation science rewilding which usually has to do with reintroducing large predators in to the landscape, and human rewilding, which has to do with reintroducing humans to the landscape.
The term rewilding hails from the green anarchy/anarcho-primitivist lineage. It is generally defined as, "a return to a more wild or natural state, the process of un-doing domestication." (I give my ex-boyfriend Peter Michael Bauer a.k.a. Urban Scout credit for that definition because even though he probably wouldn't approve of where I'm going with this, it is important to him.)
You can think of rewilding as the paleo lifestyle taken to the logical extreme. Rewilding is usually associated with the belief that it would be better to return to the hunter-gather lifestyle of our ancestors and that civilization should actively be dismantled. Many rewilders are pro-collapse, because an economic or social collapse could be an inroad to freedom (think Mr. Robot).
I'm not gonna lie, a number of books that have come out in the last couple decades have made a really good case that the agrarian lifestyle is associated with increased disease, hierarchy, and slavery. However, I've come to the point where I no longer buy 100% of the dogma of rewilding. I would no longer describe myself as anti-civilization, or someone who doesn't believe in progress or evolution: cultural, spiritual, and technological.
Rewilding has always been about more than "primitive skills" or "survival skills". It has always included not just emulating the material culture of the past, the homes and tools and foods of our ancestors, but also the social culture, the language structures, the community processes, and the ways of knowing. (That's because anyone who has ever tried to go live in the woods alone, or even with a group of other modern people has realized it's a complete shit show). Rewilding has always been about the mind and the heart. So how then can I say I'm approaching it from a different angle?
Well, I want to talk about rewilding of the soul. We can think of the soul, the higher self, or whatever language you prefer, as our ultimate blueprint for perfection, our most natural, untainted, "wild" self. Our soul is the work of God (or source, or life force or what have you). It is this same source that creates well, everything, but is strongly associated with the perfection, beauty, freedom, and harmony found in nature. My point is I'm pro-perfection, love, effortlessness, playfulness, uniqueness, wholeness, truth, purity, aliveness. richness, justice, etc. No matter what form that takes.
If this looks like amazing green technologies and limitless energy, I'm down. If this looks like incorporating wild foods, spring water, and Earthing into an otherwise modern life, I'm down. If this looks like soaring cathedrals and skyscrapers, I'm down. If this looks like rock and roll and rollercoasters, I'm down. And you know what? I think sometimes it does. Maybe this a real stretch and has nothing to do with the current definition at all, but I know rewilders, and I know all they really want is to be healthy, happy, and live in a good world. I'll be posting more on my philosophy and evolving relationship with rewilding on my blog, so stay tuned.
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