Why Wilderness Matters
Often, in western society we become focused on the tedious, mundane, momentary necessities thrust upon us by the specialization of modern labor expectations. We work in boxes, travel in boxes, live in boxes, learn in boxes, and when we die we are put in the ground in boxes. As long as I can remember, I always detested the prospect of moving through the various stages of my life in these respective boxes. I even had a school principal sit down with me and try to convince me that it takes more creativity to function within the box than outside of it. The real nature of human existence takes place on a plane where possibilities are endless. A person sees a problem, that person goes out into an open world to find a solution to the problem.
Society's solution to spiritual sickness is to turn to “science”. You feel depressed? You feel like your life is meaningless? You don’t know how or where to find your purpose? Take a pill and cover up those emotions. Every mechanic knows that if your check oil light comes on you just unplug it...
Growing up, children’s minds and spirits are molded and broken to fit into the artificial box of social contribution. As if the highest goal an individual can achieve is providing some sort of social utility to the system that reduces them to a mere piece in a machine.
We used to have seers, medicine men, sorcerers, magicians, and shamans. They have been replaced with technicians in lab coats. Recognition of the divine nature that flows through us and all things is derided and ridiculed as superstition. Finite men declaring absolutes always seemed funny to me. Instead of looking to the macro scale and being filled with wonder they focus on minutiae. It's humorous that they keep answering questions that nobody ever asked. Science only ever answers the how questions but never the why questions. The why questions belong to an entirely different classification of human knowledge.
In my opinion, the only way to answer the why questions that plague us is a return to our roots. The only way to destroy the internal source of the nihilistic existential crisis is a return to nature every once in a while. The problem is the divorce of modern society from the hierophantic experience of the wilderness. The source of all of humanities collective unconscious archetypes comes from the duality found in the natural world. Through collective tribal experience, myths were born and given to us from the pleromic spirit that underlies and permeates all of creation. The clearest way to experience these ancient measurements (mythological archetypes) of an individuals progress through life is by a return to the initial primal state that has been human existence for untold millennia.
This is why I started my backpacking guiding company. This is the need that it satisfies in modern society and in the wider outdoor market. Every other company is selling vacations. Entering into wild places is anything but a vacation. It certainly is a valuable experience that I believe should be accessible to all, but it definitely is not a vacation. 90 percent of the guests I took into the wild were searching for something, something that they realized they were sorely lacking in their lives within the box. To attempt to provide “vacations” in the sense of guided trips in the wilderness is to create a spectacle out of something that deserves awe. It cheapens the hierophantic and reduces it to a form palatable to those who can't understand the nature of heroic suffering. As the Buddha said, "Life is joyful participation in the sufferings of the world". The silence of the wild is oppressive in a way. It weighs upon you and burns away dross as from silver. When you exit you will not be the same. Falsehood and artifice are burned away and a purer and truer person steps out of the experience.
Entering into the wild for extended periods of time is leaving profane space and entering sacred space. It demands the reverence of those who enter. The tenuousness of an individuals life is put into perspective. Only by surrendering does one reap the rewards of the experience and leave transformed.
Source material for this blog post is based on the writings of :
CG Jung, https://www.junginstitut.ch/english/
Joseph Campbell, https://www.jcf.org/
Aldous Huxley, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley
Friedrich Neitsche , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche