If found, please return to the hearts and minds of the modern human race.
Look outside for a moment if you will. Chances are, somewhere among the buildings, lampposts, mailboxes, and vehicles, you’re going to see one or all of the following: The sky, a cloud, the sun, a plant, an insect, and/or an animal. This is known to most of us as the Outside.
(ex. The Outside)
Growing up, many of us probably heard this word used in many connotations; such as “You’re driving me crazy, go outside.”, “It’s raining outside.”, “Someone is outside waiting for you.”, and my favorite “I’m going outside!”.
At one time, The Outside could be considered a very scary and very large place. That was where the Wild things were. The bears, the lions, the snakes, the witches, the monsters, any and all creatures that our imagination could create that would both terrify and intrigue the most primitive parts of our brain. During this time, the Outside was also in direct connection with The Wild.
But somewhere, at sometime, something odd began to happen. We became more familiar with those creatures and creeps that lived in the Wild. They stopped being scary, and eventually just became the Outside. No more wild things to terrify us, though we occasionally still want to create this idea that the Outside is scary by placing the frightening characteristics on each other rather than on, say, a bear.
It became silly to be afraid of some vague idea known as The Wild. I mean, come on, when was the last time you heard of someone being attacked by a bear, or turned into a toad by a witch?! Obviously the Outside was still scary, but it was scary because of the people that lived there now, not the animals. Outside became the cool kid at school and no longer associated with its old pal The Wild.
So far this doesn’t sound so bad, right? No reason to fear the Outside nor those cute little woodland creatures that call it home! Now one can venture out of their house (wearing bug spray, long pants, hiking boots, a sun hat, SPF 70+, a 1 liter bottle of water, a cell phone, and a flashlight.. just in case) and have a cute little squirrel come running right up to them to beg for food! Or they can canoe down a water way and play with the adorable otters, fish, and alligators that live along the banks!
…Wait a minute here.. play with the alligator? Unfortunately, yes. This is were losing the Wild has become a problem. We no longer fear that which we should. Alligators? Why, I touched one of those at the zoo! I swam with dolphins while on vacation! I bet you can even find a place where you can pet a tiger and maybe give it a morsel of meat! What’s so scary about those “wild” animals? I see them all the time.. at the zoo, at the rescue park, at the hotel.
But what many have forgotten is that those animals are trained to work with people. What you don’t see is the keeper behind the scenes making sure that animal is interested in going out to visit people. These animals are no longer Wild. Nor are they domesticated (by any stretch of the imagination). They are comfortable with the idea that a human is going to provide them with food, and so long as that human that they feel most comfortable with is near them, they’ll let a strange person come over and touch them, feed them, or ride on them.
That alligator is the river is not. That dolphin with her calf doesn’t know you. That tiger, that bear, that lion does not see you bringing it food.. they see that you are food.
(This picture’s not nearly as cute without the glass there.)
Losing the wild is a terrible thing. Not only does it mean we’ve lost that fear which has helped our species to survive for so long, but we’ve lost the magic that made the Wild an exciting and wonderful place to be.
So how do we find it? Is it lost forever? No.. I don’t think so. It’s there still. You can find it everyday. You find that fear and wonder whenever you see a spider in your bathtub. That thrill of danger when a snake slithers across your path. And that moment of magic when you finally spot that bear, that deer, that.. was that a troll? over there just beyond the trees.
The Wild is still outside and it’s still waiting for us to make it cool again. When we venture out into the forest with only our tent and our sleeping bag, our flashlight and camp fire, and our ghost stories and s’mores, that is when we find the Wild, right where we left it: Outside under the stars, in the trees, hiding in the shadows. And we welcome that thrill that tells us we are not in charge out here, but rather, we are the followers to see what happens next.