Wild Thinking

There are questions first: What is wild (from the German wild, or perhaps Wald, forest, where wild beings lived)? Is wild that which is not domesticated? Uncontrolled, unmanaged? Not cultivated? Untamed? Savage? Waste? In a state of nature? Lawless? Wild as a word has ambiguity and reflexion. Is wildness just the nonhuman part of the spectrum? Does it overlap in humans? Is it just difference or craziness? We love and celebrate the wild; we fear and suppress the wild. In one sense, the wild is a quality of being just beyond rules or outside of walls. Paul Shepard reminds us that wildness occurs in many places, that is, in any species whose sexual assortment and genealogy are not controlled by human beings. Charles Darwin also reminds us that humanity is wild. Do we need the wild? We need wild animals and plants to be fully conscious. We need a wild universe to be able to live fully, to think.

What is thinking (from the German denken)? To revolve ideas in the mind? To design, to imagine, to judge? Of course, there are different forms of thinking. Religious or scientific thinking are different (and perhaps could be considered tame). Tame ideas are remarkably persistent, such as "more is better." George Orwell referred to these obsolete ideas as "wrong-think." Another kind of thinking, "Double-think"is used traditionally to keep some ideas tame. Gordon R. Taylor suggests that "Non-think" (the failure of good ideas to be recognized or used) is equally obstructive. Is wild thinking a real form of thinking? Are there large-scale forms of thought wild? Is Philosophy one wild form, or is ecology?

The fundamental emotion of wild thinking seems to be astonishment, literally being struck by lightning. Wild thinking is appropriate for "system breaks," the social discontinuities identified by Kenneth Boulding. We have started to identify the forces setting up the next big break, but we have not defined the forming patterns very well. We need to be rethinking (perhaps a predecessor or form of wild thinking) the basic assumptions of the spheres of civilization, from our economic and political to industrial, religious and scientific.

Perhaps there is a downside to wild thinking. Too much anarchy is dreaming; too much feral thinking is noncultural and perhaps dangerous. Too much of any kind of thinking is unrelated to the important mode of learning by doing. Ecological thinking has an active component of doing. Is it meaningful to talk of a wild culture, one that intermeshes with the wild of nature? A model of a civilization without walls, without resources, maxima, or weeds?

Is ecological thinking intrinsically wild? Will Wright suggests that knowledge becomes wild when it is critically reflexive and committed to critical access rather than to a version of absolute reality. Thus such wild knowledge cannot be "domesticated" by one particular social institution. So, it is accessible by individuals.

Ecological thinking is wild because it has a nonhuman component. By contrast, scientific or religious thinking is domesticated or tamed because it is limited by a true reality, or a set of rules for observing a true reality. Science is defined in opposition to religion, with a commitment to neutral observation rather than moral commitment to tradition. Wild ecological thinking combines technique with moral and ecological concerns.