We are wild creatures, every one of us, born into captivity.
This is a good thing, for we would not survive well, nor for long without the protection of those who have already learned how to fit inside the world, without their guidance, discilpline, leadership. Of course, there are varying levels of quality in such beginnings, for not all of us find the perfect launch pad from which to elevate ourselves into adulthood. However, the common denominator remains, whether parental protection and guidance means two delicious, loving and sensitive people to whom we can always go and whom we always trust, or an atribilious, or absent father, and a bitter, cold or missing mother. The baby born is completely unknown, to himself, to his parents, to the world. He, or she, is a wild thing, and not a blank canvas as some might say. A blank canvas suggests that someone else plans to paint me, and that is never going to sit well with a wild creature.
Each generation makes its own changes. As awareness develops we consider how we will live out our life. Will we copy the ways of our parents, our guides and leaders? or will we rebel and create anew? I know it really isn’t that simple, nor an ‘either/or’ thing, for there are thousands, nay, billions of hectares in between, with as many opportunities to paint newcolours and shapes, add a personal light, to add new hopes, dreams, accomplishments and mistakes. The nature and nurture conversation can snake on deep into the night. If I was born to another family, with other built in rules and standards, would I still be me? If my family had been cold and unloving, what would I be like now? It isn’t just nature, nor just nurture, but a combination of the two. Every single lesson I learned has changed me, altered my course. Every person met has taught me. Every painful hurt, moment of joy, mistake made, accomplishment achieved, everything has gone in to the development of me. I am me because of my life thus far.
So what do we do with the person we are? We can take this person and make a difference, that’s what. The alternative, to not make any impact at all, is not worthy of any one of us, nor is it possible. We would have to not be born at all. Although the wild beginning inside us – our soul – is faithful and true, always there right up to the last gasp, it appears that we can forget we have one. It is tempting to whine about what we don’t have, didn’t achieve, didn’t get on-a-plate, will never accomplish, and, in that time-and-life-wasting process, we deny the existence of our wildness. Oh, it’s been beaten out of me………..I have no choice………….they are too powerful……..and so on. It’s like a disease, a deadly virus if allowed to spread.
Watch children at play. Remember being one of those little creatures, full of energy and noise, their voices rising like birds, their imaginative games, the way they sing together, image free? Well, that’s where we all began. Even the children who appear to have nothing, have the ability to play. Nobody told them they should. It’s a wild thing.
As our awareness develops, we have the brain to consider and reflect on the things we have learned. Some of us find a wise place for our curiosity to land, a guide who will answer and explain, a parent perhaps. Some of us move into irridescence (my word for adolescence) with questions squirming inside our heads like a writhe of trapped snakes. Either way, the awareness continues to develop. We notice more, we question more, and inch by pimply inch we find answers that resonate with our wildness, although most of us have no idea how that happens. It just feels right, so we adopt it, fashion it into our developing persona, make it our own. All of this is grand, as long as it doesn’t get too fixed. There are many who shoot themselves in the foot by holding fast to something learned years before, refusing to change, even though everything else has changed at least a million times over since the initial ‘aha’. Refusing to cant in the ever changing winds of life is a dangerous, and often self-imposed limitation. It pushes away any opportunity for new growth; it pushes people away and the chance for new encounters. You might say you don’t want that anyway, but your soul won’t agree, that I am certain of. You might say you are quite happy as you are, but you aren’t. None of us are. I don’t mean we are dissatisfied with our lives, not at all, although many are, but more that we are often more aware of that exstrinsic to us, the out-there of life and able, with supreme success, to silence our inner voice, the song of our heart, our soul, our very wildness. And this wildness is not the same as anyone else’s, for not one other living person has lived our life, not one. Much like snowflakes and zebras, we are each unique. No two the same. Ever.
With this knowledge comes responsibility. There is no time for any of us to lie on the couch moaning. Just outside the door, there are encounters waiting, unpredictably dotted about, visual, olefactory, verbal. It’s not a movie in the making, our ordinary journey; It’s far more wonderful than that.
Learning about the dynamics of animal life out here in Africa is fascinating. Although we humans have been fashioned with larger brains, in so many ways we are similar. Everything affects our walk through life. If we are weak, we must learn how to get stronger, or we become ‘lunch’. Others of our species can protect or try to destroy us. There is danger all around. The big difference, however, is that our real danger lies not in external predation but deep inside. What we think of what happens and what we do about it, or don’t, affects our whole life. Nobody can ruin our lives, however hard they may try, if we refuse to let them. I do acknowledge that it is possible to live under the control of another and to allow it for a while, thinking it a safe place, the right place, the best place to be, but, once the heart speaks out, which it always always will, saying ‘this is not what you want, make change’, at that point it is no longer right nor healthy to remain. It isn’t about packing physical bags. It’s about the first step down the road less travelled, the road you don’t know, the road that leads to inner acceptance and peace. Fundamentals may not change, or they may do just that over time, as one metaphysical shift affects everyone else involved, but this doesn’t stop the process. What does change is the person who decides to begin learning their own heart song, to relocate their wild spirit, whatever it takes. An invisible change is always the most powerful, and not one living being remains unaffected by it. It is transmitted in silence, but transmitted nonetheless.
I have met and spoken with people who have suffered horrifically at the hands of others and who shine like full moons. They were given no explanation, no heartfelt apology, no opportunity for revenge, no closure, so they did it all themselves. They decided to remember the childlike wild inside them and to fan the embers back to life. Too many of us waste life longing for someone to say sorry. I’ve done it myself, imagining it would make everything okay. Take it from me……move on. It won’t happen anyway.
Imagine this going on in the animal world? Those wild creatures we love to spot, to watch, to marvel at. Any of them who paused to re-stock their supply of self-pity, wouldn’t last the night. And we can learn from them, from the natural world. It isn’t separate from us, and it never was. This planet of ours belongs to all of us, and we are just a part of the dynamic and ever changing whole.
So, do we play our part? Do we really paint our own canvas…….make our own mistakes, wash the colours off when they turn to mud and paint again, and then again and then again, altering lines and hues and shapes according to everything we learn as we travel on, or do we stand still whilst life marches by, immersed in what didn’t come to us, what wasn’t fair, deaf to the song in our heart?
I believe that every hurt and every frustration, failure, disappointment, mistake, every wound, every pain, all of these and more are essential materials for our development. We must learn to celebrate them, be thankful for them, and to learn the lessons they taught us. Unmindfulness is a human failing and the reason we live like hamsters. We must notice everything, try everything with open, and above all thankful hearts. We must re-kindle the child, the wild one, not to make sense of our lives, for who on earth has ever succeeded at that, but to honour the fact that we are here at all, to be mindfully thankful for everything that happened to us, to celebrate our glorious survival thus far, and then to work out how each one of us ordinary people can live out an extraordinary life.