“Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest.” Henry Thoreau, Walking
We are wondrously wild when we are born, living in awe.
Then we are systematically tamed by our family, teachers, neighbors, the media, and government—almost all of the adults in our lives as we grow up.
The foreign installation has been downloaded into us without our permission, the socialization that we are taught to understand as reality—the only reality. How to behave, think, and feel is imprinted into us.
We move into adulthood tamed, and most people stay tamed for their entire lives. The ordinary person is likely to become tamer with age, less willing to experiment, explore, learn—less and less likely to live in awe and ecstasy.
The flawed reality of the foreign installation
Most of us accept that what we have been raised to believe is a pretty good description of reality.
We’re taught detailed specifics about a religion, about what’s decent and acceptable thought and emotion, about how we should govern our society, about what is beautiful and what is not, about how to relate to others, what we can eat and what we cannot. Almost every detail of the foreign installation is downloaded a million times so that by adulthood we have become ourselves the foreign installation. Then we get busy installing the foreign installation into our children and defending it the rest of our lives.
Now we have been tamed. Now we are relatively dull and predictable.
But we can be contemptuously critical of the foreign installation that other people in other cultures receive and live out. We scoff at the foreign installations of people in the Middle East, for instance, wondering how on earth people can believe that stuff. Those people, meanwhile, may be horrified about our beliefs and the behaviors that our version of reality allow.
In other words, it doesn’t matter which culture you’ve absorbed, you will very likely accept that culture’s version of reality and disagree with the versions of reality taught in other cultures.
The foreign installation is deep and likely to survive a lifetime in just about everybody, even when it produces lives of desperation and suffering.
“All thinking is recycled thoughts,” as Sadhguru reminds us. We spend our lives recreating the foreign installation with our programmed minds.
We pass the foreign installation onto every generation in order to keep them (and us) safe from the chaos we might have if we didn’t organize human behavior very tightly. But we overdo it and create societies of tame men and women.
Relatively safe, but tame.
The great big trouble is that we cannot sustain a life of awe and ecstasy unless we deconstruct the foreign installation. But most people are too timid to do that rigorous questioning. Oh, what would happen to me if I questioned the religion I’ve been taught? Oh, won’t I be ostracized if I question what most people consider reality? Oh, I don’t think my family, friends, or colleagues will like it if I’m wild.
What is it to be wild?
We often associate nature’s wildness with danger, so we feel ambivalent about leaving the safety of the known to explore the wilds. We may claim that we love nature, but we don’t spend much time getting close to it. We prefer the safety of town and home.
We often associate human wildness with misbehavior, chaos, psychological problems, even criminality. But those human problems arise from a troubled, distorted, or tortured mind, not wildness—which is free of those neuroses.
To be wild is to be untamed, uninhibited, courageous, open, and ever curious, living in awe.
People deeply imprinted with the foreign installation have lots of trouble going wild, unless they drink alcohol or take drugs that temporarily lift the social imprint and allow their perceptions to soar beyond their usual tight boundaries. No wonder we love those substances: they often help us relax the relentless grip of the foreign installation so that we can discover other realities.
The foreign installation that we all received is a script about how to live.
To be wild is to live off script, to meet life directly, without an a priori, a plan, or demands of any kind. To be wild is to meet life without judgment.
To be wild is to experience life without the guidance of others, without the deep patterns of perception most people live by, without knowing in advance what to expect.
To be wild is to be in a state of sustained poise, a state of consciousness in which our minds are still.
An increasingly tame and dull society pays a high price
There is data to indicate that America itself is becoming tamer. David Brooks in a recent New York Times column entitled, “This Century Is Broken,” sites these facts showing that Americans have become less adventurous and more static:
We migrate across state lines half as much as we did in the 1950s and 1960s.
Our millennials are 65% less likely to own a business than people under 30 did in the 1980s.
We’re 25% less likely to change jobs than we did in 1990.
Fewer of us are working. For every male 25 to 55 looking for work, there are three who have dropped out of the workforce.
Labor force dropouts average 2000 hours per year watching a screen—the equivalent of a full time job.
Our society is showing its age, less confident, more divided, losing its mojo, as Brooks says in his analysis.
We are, Brooks says, “a country that is decelerating, detaching, losing hope, getting sadder,” as we become more and more risk averse.
Finding your wildness
What blocks us from the great pleasures of wildness is our conviction that the foreign installation is the only valid explanation for reality.
One of the most agreed upon elements of our socialization is that we must suffer. We’re taught that “life is hard,” that we can’t be happy all the time. We’re taught that other people can do things to us to disrupt our bliss, so we need to be on guard, because someone may take our goodies. Thus life can only be described in the cliches of “My cup is half full” or “My cup is half empty.”
The wild person’s cup, however, is always filled to the brim.
The warrior’s joy cannot be drowned out by the struggles of his or her fellow humans. As Castaneda says, “The world of people goes up and down and people go up and down with their world; warriors have no business following the ups and downs of their fellow men.”
You already live in awe part of the time. You’re wild at those times, free of the foreign installation. Your perceptions are expanded during those moments. You feel completely alive in your wild state, connected to everything around you. You are not going up and down with your fellow humans. You’re a warrior. Want to be wild all of the time? Here are a few ideas and practices that help move us away from timidity toward wildness:
- Stop defending your foreign installation; it is a flawed explanation of reality. Notice how dull it is to listen to the endless repetition of the download by the people around us. Stop repeating the “news.” Stop being the foreign installation yourself. You will probably be talking less and observing more. If you want to support the growth of the people closest to you, tell them about the advantages to being wild.
- Spend more time in nature’s wildness. You don’t need to name everything you see; that just repeats the foreign installation. Naming everything in nature is one of the ways we tame even the wilderness, a way to feel safe in the wild. If you can quiet down, you won’t feel separate from the wild around you, even in your own backyard.
- Identify the deep patterns of your own behavior and experiment with dislodging them. Our patterns put us to sleep: let’s try to wake up and be unpredictable—even to ourselves.
You can think of other strategies.
Let’s be wild.
Note: For more on dumping the foreign installation, go to http://thepoisedlife.com/believing-without-believing-2/