"Wildness:" Session No. 5 -- readings from chapter 5, "Wild Things"

Opening words:

Fact is, animals are neither innocent nor guilty, neither pure nor corrupt, for these are strictly human categories.  Indeed, if we’re to envy animals, it’s precisely because they live outside such categories.  And here we come to the heart of the matter.  For what would it mean to experience our own actions in such a way that the terms “good” and “bad” don’t apply?  It would mean living, like animals, without doubt as to our life’s purpose.  It would mean living in such perfect alignment with that purpose that our every act flowed effortlessly from what was highest and truest within us.  It would mean rising each day to forage or feed, to shelter and care for our young, to laze or labor, fight or frolic without distraction, without self-judgment, without taking one step off life’s true path.  And even in the face of misery and terror, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, even as the sleet freezes our hides or the hawk descends upon us, it would mean living in the faith that this, too, is the way.  Imagine living in such fashion and you begin to imagine what I mean by becoming a wild thing.

Preparation (distribute pencils and paper or note cards):

1.  When do you feel most fully alive?

2.  Make a list of some of your purposes in life.

3.  What would you say is your life's highest purpose?


1.  When do you feel most fully alive?

2.  What are some of your purposes in life?  How easy or hard is it to name these?

3.  What is your life's highest purpose?  Is it hard to say what it is?  Why or why not?

4.  When (in what situations, performing what actions) do you feel connected to your life's highest purpose?

5.  What kinds of things keep you from feeling connected to your highest purpose all the time?

6.  What could you do to feel connected to your highest purpose more often?

Closing words:

Thoreau said that “the most alive is the wildest.”  We don’t go into wildness to escape our lives but to return to them, to return to our true selves and our highest purposes. ... We practice wildness so that we may live more fully and constantly in the midst of anima, in the midst of soul.  When I have claimed my wildness I can find myself, with Whitman, “aplomb in the midst of irrational things.”  Wildness will not save us from misfortune.  Fear, doubt, grief all lie in wait to strike and seize us as before.  Only now their grip will not be so tight or last so long.  In life’s thicket we will have created a clearing for our wild selves.  And in that clearing, in the face of confusion and worry, in the face of failure and loss, in the face of death itself, we will lift our noses to the moon and sing.