The Empowerment of Wild Being
Modern technological advances have given society an enormous amount of power, including destructive power. Humans are powerful enough to affect planetary life systems. Yet, too often, human scaled communities are overpowered by economic institutions. Ordinary western people are losing their ability to democratically shape their communities and ensure the well-being of their environments (Benstein, 2002). Society wields much authority, but personal power is lacking. According to the advertising industry, our personal power lays in our purchase power. Within corporate hierarchy, our role is to consume. Achieving convenience, comfort and satisfaction seems to be where our power resides. But material power does not often lead to personal empowerment, nor does it fulfill spiritual needs. By gaining power for satisfaction and comfort from things, we are losing a sense of personal empowerment and significance (Benstein, 2002). Recovering the vibrant wild within is essential to regaining personal empowerment.
The majority of urban people are totally dependent on the institutional structures of modernity for the basics of life, which is reflective of a sense of domestication (Kowalewski, 2000). How is domestication disempowering? Domestication indicates dependency for basic needs and an inability to acquire basic resources. It implies submission and docility to a provider, which encourages immaturity and irresponsibility. Domestication involves dull routine and an immobilization of natural flow, which extinguishes creativity (Kowalewski, 2000). Domestication requires obedience, which reduces freedom and necessitates breaking the spirit of the wild within. In return, the domesticated animal receives security, comfort and ease of life. In domesticated animals, immature characteristics are selected. Rather than being sluggish and fattened, wild animals are clever and alert in their natural environments (Synder, 1990). Wild creatures and our hunter gatherer ancestors maintain tremendous awareness and environmental responsiveness. For an image that contrasts wild to domesticated, compare a wild buffalo to a cow, a mountain goat to a domesticated goat, a wild hog to a penned pig, a wolf to a poodle. Think of a heavy-set individual in an easy chair in front of a 60 inch television with a can of sugary satisfaction in hand and compare that image to a lean warrior slipping quietly through the forest tracking a deer with hand crafted weapons in hand. Which of these images displays an empowered individual? This may contrast domesticated man to wild man in a simplified caricature, but the image makes the point.
Kowalewski (2002) claims that pursuing civilized comfort traps us into powerlessness. Growth is initiated by discomfort and maturation diminishes when one becomes too comfortable. Comfortable creatures are sloppy and careless, less alert and aware. With this lack of awareness comes the demise of the survival instinct and atrophy of the instincts in general (Kowalewski, 2002). It is the instinctual and intuitive power of the wild within that allows people to adapt to changing environments and develop a survivor-oriented resilience (Wood, 2011). Psychological growth stems from acute awareness and discomfort. In seeking comfort, one misses opportunities to grow and become empowered.
Power is defined as the potential or capacity to perform or act effectively. Beyond meeting basic survival needs, what is it that human beings need to be effective at doing? Surely we need to be effective at more than consumerism. We need to learn to develop the self-discipline and responsibility to live within the means of the planet’s resources, while leaving something to the generation that will follow. We need to rise to our full potential as holistic participants in the support and unfolding of life. The healthy and developed psyche provides a range of personal resources, skills, sensibilities and creative capacities for meaningful participation with the earth community (Plotkin, 2013). An outcome of psychological/spiritual growth is a life of meaning, purpose, resilience, responsibility and genuine relationships. The wild within is empowering because it increases awareness, recognizes authenticity, and supports a flexible responsiveness that flows with the dynamic nature of the world.
Modern people are out of balance when it comes to power, which has not allowed a healthy evolution of consciousness. Humans must find a balance between material power and inner empowerment. Tapping into the transformative process of the dynamic, sometime discomforting, process of acknowledging and integrating the wild within allows one to dwell with discomfort and adapt to an ever changing world. The power of the wild within is in the transformative potential for each individual to break free from their domestication allowing them to fashion authentically richer lives.