Wild and Domestic

Wendell Berry in Orion Magazine:

I. GARY SNYDER SAID that we know our minds are wild because of the difficulty of making ourselves think what we think we ought to think.

II. That is the fundamental sense of “wild” or of “wilderness”: undomesticated, unrestrained, out of control, disorderly.

III. There are two ways to value this, as exemplified by the sense of “wild party”: from the point of view of the participants and that of the neighbors.

IV. To our people, as pioneers, “the wilderness” looked disorderly, undomestic, out of control.

V. According to that judgment, it needed to be brought under control, put in order by domestication.

VI. But our word “domestic” comes from the Latin domus, meaning “house” or “home.” To domesticate a place is to make a home of it. To be domesticated is to be at home.

VII. It is a sort of betrayal, then, that our version of domestication has imposed ruination, not only upon “wilderness,” as we are inclined to think, but upon the natural or given world, the basis of our economy, our health, in short our existence.

VIII. It was hardly surprising that, as our dominant economy battered and plundered “the wilderness,” some would undertake to save it in parks and wilderness preserves.

More here.

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