In the film of The Fellowship of the Ring, when the Hobbits asked Strider where they were going together, after they left the inn called The Prancing Pony, he answered, “Into the wild.” In that tale they went off the path, across wild country to avoid confronting the evil dark riders.
My forays off the path in the wild have not been nearly that exciting (there was one close encounter with a low-swooping owl at dusk – hardly a dark rider, but it got my attention). I could probably think of other outdoor adventures. But the wild part of my mind, my inner life, is another story: it feeds my imagination. “Wild” can mean many things. Right now I think one of the wildest places on the planet (in a sad and tragic sense) is in Haiti: the wildness of catastrophe.
Today I found myself reading an online sermon entitled “Finding Wild Space.” Because I’m intrigued by wild places, inner and outer, the title caught my attention immediately. The writer of that sermon, Rev. Anne Sutherland Howard, had a different take on “wild.” She wrote, “Wild space is that part in each one of us that does not fit our consumer culture’s definition of the good life. Here’s how it works: Imagine a circle. Within that circle is the dominant cultural model: white, male, middle-class, heterosexual, educated, able-bodied, Western, successful. Now, put your own model of yourself over that circle. Some parts may fit, maybe almost all, some may be different. The part of us that falls outside the conventional circle is our wild space. The parts that do not fit may be obvious: race or sex or physical characteristic. Other parts that do not match up with the successful conventional model may not be so obvious to others: surviving the death of a loved one, a lost job, the struggle with addiction or depression, the vague disappointment about not “making it,” or our refusal to buy into the conventional model. Anything that causes us to question the definition of success is our wild space.”
This passage got me thinking about the choices I’ve made that may have made me seem less than successful, according to the writer’s definition. I’ve never earned very much money. I’m a woman. And I’m outside the conventional model in many life-style choices. Yet living at the edge is where I’ve always been most comfortable. In that space, I am closer to possibility, creativity, and very interesting people and ideas.
What is your wild space? And what does it mean in your life?