“The environment we’re used to is designed to sustain us. We live like fish in an aquarium. Food comes mysteriously down, oxygen bubbles up. We are the domestic pets of a human zoo we call civilization.”
–Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
I walk alone into the wild to escape civilization’s bubble of artificial reality. The material comforts, the convenience and technological ease, the abundance everywhere at all hours, and the seemingly inexhaustible supply of easily obtained necessities and luxuries, it insulates me against and removes me from nature.
That is, of course, the principle intention of it all, to separate humans from the harsh elements and the hardship of the existential struggle nature would otherwise represent. But in that separation, as desirable as it is for sake of an easier and more comfortable life, something is lost.
Separate an animal from nature long enough and they lose their true identity. They look the same on the outside, but something inside changes. Some may not survive being released back into the wild. Some may develop psychological problems and behavioral disorders. If the process is carried on long enough some may become domesticated as the wolf became the dog.
I, an animal of another sort, live in a city like a creature in a zoo removed from its natural environment. Each outing into the forest is not just a physical trip afoot down a trail, but a mental journey as well. I search for what’s missing from life when separated from its natural origins.
It is an endless quest. What I’m hunting is abstract rather than material. I’ll never round a bend in the creek and find a shiny golden nugget to grasp and hold aloft in triumph. It’s something subtle and elusive, but I suspect far more valuable. It very well may be a piece of soul waiting to be rediscovered and reclaimed. Or maybe I’m just a lone weirdo wandering the woods lost in thought.