What Happens When Men Flee The Wild

Yesterday, as my kids and I jumped from the polished rocks of the Frio River into the pools below, the music began to play.

Across the river and downstream, someone began blasting country music through their truck’s stereo system, the darker music of the the wild beat back into the shadows.

Whenever I am in nature with crowds, it’s always the same:

Invariably there are those who experience the rustling of branches, the creaking of frogs, the bleating of cicadas not as some feast of sound to be relished, but as a void to be filled with their own noise, the unmitigated wild too much for them to bear.

And the compulsion is not limited to sound:

We rush to jacket ourselves against wind;

We flee to our air conditioned houses and cars at the rising heat;

We lunge gasping from the clutches of cold rivers;

We blast all trace of pollen spore dust and insect from our bodies with showers the minute we re-enter the house.

And as we flee the discomfort of the wild without, so we flee those of the wild within, estranging ourselves from the power and beauty of the uncharted life:

Rather than feel the knot of fear in speaking hard truths, we flee to the pleasant stupor of netflix;

Rather than work as madmen for a season to establish some pillar of our kingdom, we balk at such “work imbalance” and restrain ourselves, blind to the loss;

Rather than expose our skin to the social cold of misstep by doing profound yet controversial work, we trot doggedly in our harnesses, pulling our load of unremarkable goods to unremarkable outposts.

To strive in the wild lands of risk and action is to know its natural consequence: to taste bile in the throat, to determine–heart in mouth–if the midnight noises are animals outside the tent or merely the roving wind.

And the costs of our abstention are ruinous:

For in so shielding ourselves from the terror and wonder of the wild other, we lose all objective sense of ourselves and our impact or lack-of in the larger world;

In our clinging to comfort we cut ourselves off from the shaping forces that would make us truly powerful, that would make us mighty players in the great games of true cause and true effect.

So no more warm cocooning.

No more always-on echo-chamber.

No more living in a house of self-confirming mirrors.

Though the wilds without and the wilds within be full of terrors…

Though they cut you and all your illusions to the bone…

That is the domain of greatness: those are the hills you must haunt: the tooth and claw of natural consequence, where your life and your work are offered up to the world as it stands: the true world: to be found worthy or wanting.

Quit the trappings of bland comfort.

Quit the nauseous knowns.

Open your life to the crucible of the disregarding wild.

Bryan Ward is the founder of Third Way Man and author of the LIT Black Paper

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