Rewilding: A Term to Throw Away

For a long time now I’ve used this blog to post up angry rants about random topics, generally relating to rewilding in some way or other. I’ve realized something in the last few days that is blowing my mind: I’m fucking sick of “rewilding.” Yes that’s right folks. I’ve had it up to here with the word rewilding.

From the beginning the word rewilding already had several uses. Trying to get people to rally behind a concept or idea using a pre-existing term with several definitions doesn’t make it easy to catch on and causes lots of confusion along the way. Such as people thinking that I want to reintroduce elephants into North American… Whoops! As of late my biggest problem is people using all of the terms that come close to it synonym for it. That totally sucks when people use it as a synonym for a subculture riddled with hateful people bent on revenge. I’d like to get as far away from that hate culture as possible, but unfortunately by picking the term rewilding I kind of married them. Who wants to be affiliated with a hate culture? Double Whoops!

Anytime you give an idea a name, you both give it power and kill it’s ability to change. It becomes a term, set in stone. The term itself can catch on, grow a bigger following. But the evolution of the idea that created the term stops. Once you have a doctrine, a written concept of an idea, it feels increasingly difficult to change. We see this with languages. As soon as a language has a dictionary, it becomes set in stone and ceases to have any fluidity. The book becomes the overall authority on a subject instead of the people speaking the language. This happened to rewilding the moment it became a word. Of course, to get people up to speed, you must talk about it. Spread it. And thus the power in giving it a name. Eventually it will become obsolete, outdated and someone else will give a name to what rises in its place. And so on.

For the last year I have debated with myself whether or not to publish my book. For as soon as my current thoughts sit on this page, they seem to represent a kind of permanence that I don’t feel I can shake. 10 years from now I will not agree with a lot of the things I wrote in the book. I’m already uncomfortable about the attitude and tone. More experiences, deeper levels of connection will make me eat my own words I’ve shared here. I know this. And yet, does the reader know this? No. The reader may read this and see it as a representation of what I believe, currently 10 years after print, 20, 30, 40 years after print people might say, “Urban Scout believes X” when in fact I don’t. I did at one time, the time I wrote this book. But things change and I want to make it clear that everything in this book I hold up in the air, in a space that I can change and probably will in time.

Similarly, in the future, I may not think of what I do as “rewilding” as described here in this book. Whatever I do, whether I call it rewilding now or snugufunpoling in 10 years doesn’t matter. What I have hoped to convey in this book doesn’t represent a word, but a trajectory. So what does that mean? It means… forget rewilding. Forget this book. I’m not saying that I’m going to stop using the word. I’m just going to focus on staying true to fluidity of the trajectory behind the word. If rewilding, the word, changes to mean something other than this trajectory I have described, than most certainly I would not identify with the word (and I’m already feeling it doesn’t). I identify with the trajectory; a non-culturally appropriated, authentic, regenerative, indigenous life connected to family, community, the land and spirit.

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25 Comments on “Rewilding: A Term to Throw Away”

  1. I totally understand your contemplation of publishing your book. Even after a year after I’ve written something for school, I want to add more to it, make it better. Definitely keep refining your thoughts. It makes you wiser. I still think you should use the term rewilding as it still is a word uncommonly used in our culture, especially in the context with humans and their current, civilized culture. I suppose though that maybe you no longer like the word rewilding anymore because you hackneyed the crap out of it over the years. I can see in some ways that the term rewilding should have been defined and compared and contrasted much more briefly with certain notions of civilization.

    P.S. I still really like the content in your book. REWILD OR DIE! I like it…

  2. While I totally sympathize with what you’re saying here, your mission will be best served if you cater to the best of your audience, not the lowest common denominator. Sure, people will misconstrue your words, including the key word, rewilding. But why let them stop you from communicating what you believe now? A smart reader recognizes the written word for what it is: a tool for understanding the specific state of mind, shaped by the time and place it was written.

  3. When you try to coin a term you are assaulting peoples sensibilities about language. That’s ok as people do it all the time.

    I’d say this, give your book to an editor be they pro or amateur and get their input. Work on that input, then publish. Your philosophy will change as you get older and that is how things work. You shouldn’t be ashamed of rage or early judgementalism that you cast ten years ago when you didn’t understand a subject(I’m guessing at your possible reservations because I’ve had similar ones). It’s an indication of the age when you wrote about something. Many young people never write anything and do nothing to change the world. Write what you have to write and publish when you find a good stopping point on the subject.

    Hopefully this will not be your last book. If you miss things in the first book it’s an argument for why you need to write the second book.

    There are extremely precise people who choose to put off publication until much later dates. From what I can see of what you’ve already written I don’t think that precision and exactness is your thing. So edit and publish this one and then start on your next project. You will feel good to put this project behind you no matter it’s end result. You have given it your best. I can usually tell when I’m done with a topic when I’m starting to get disgusted with it and barely want to talk about it.

    Just my thoughts.

  4. It’s always the danger with writing anything down- you might change your mind- you might be wrong etc. Don’t publish your book if you feel you have major problems with it, but it seems a shame to totally trash it.
    I’m excited to see what this new chapter brings in your life and in your writing. I see this as not an end but a new beginning. New beginnings are exciting!

  5. I don’t think it’s necessary to completely abandon the word. Especially if you feel it accurately describes what you do. You just have to define your terms. At some point in your work you just have to say, “To me, rewilding means. . .”

    Just be specific and your words can’t honestly be misconstrued.

  6. Well said, Scout.

    I deeply empathize with what your feeling. Oftentimes when I look at something I wrote in the past, I’m filled with this sense of other. Because I grow everyday, and each experience I have furthers that growth, looking back at my less-wise-self usually makes me feel annoyed or uncomfortable with who I was then.

    I don’t often use the term “rewilding” when describing what I do to my friends or family, especially because I can’t stand labeling myself. By all means it has made getting the message across far easier for civilized folks, and that’s it’s only purpose for me. Kiriko put it succinctly: “A smart reader recognizes the written word for what it is: a tool for understanding the specific state of mind, shaped by the time and place it was written.”

    I feel that if I had a group of friends in my life that were all into “rewilding” and used the term to identify with, I’d become annoyed and probably distance myself. I don’t have a group of friends that are into rewilding, so it isn’t something I’ve experienced but I can imagine how I would react.

    This is a great final chapter, and I’m proud of you for enduring this long, and making your desires a reality.

    I have to ask, I know this is a bit random, but what is it that interests you about the scythians? I used to really be into nomadic horse-cultures when I was younger, and the scythians really interested me.

    Anyways, Godspeed Urban Scout.

  7. Whatever scout!I just like to spew and let the meanings fall as they may.Words are symbols/representations/idols shure.But here we are in history.You can play along or try to escape.Osho talked alot about this and even was nameless for awile.Bringing it up as an issue is important and deconstucting yourself is a great way to get people to think for themselves.Either way its been a great ride scout and thats sometimes what its all about.We are always evolving and the definitions we create for ourselves become prisons.Youve done your part and humanity will never be the same.Thanx

  8. why so afraid of who you are and what you have created…i think these comments and your popularity are proof enough that you’ve hit a nerve, especially when it ruffles up the “civilized opposition.”

    so many good/wise things said already, why repeat? it’s reassuring to know you are frail in the ways that humans are, but you are also immensely courageous and alive!

    think of the words ‘green’ ‘sustainable’ ‘ecofriendly’. Everyone trying to use/abuse them in ways that are constantly shifting and changing…and we know it’s mostly total bullshit. but it doesn’t keep ambitious souls from trying/flailing/succeeding/failing- and life goes on….

  9. Scout, that said, I’d still be really interested to read your work to this point. Perhaps you could e-book it.

    To be true a philosophy in context must always be evolving, adapting and changing in response both to counterarguments and the realities of the ever-shifting world. To live is to grow; but time is not linear, and what will be doesn’t always require the destruction of what once was.

  10. Hi Scout ~

    I sympathize with your feeling very strongly.

    I seem to remember reading that you’re starting to play an instrument of some kind? I don’t remember which. But if you someday decide to make an album of tunes you’ve written or like to play, I think you’ll run into the same problem you have now.

    It’s the artists curse!

    You, as an artist, are constantly moving forward in real-time on the trajectory of your muse – in this case the muse of: “non-culturally appropriated, authentic, regenerative, indigenous life connected to family, community, the land and spirit.” It inspires you to create artifacts as you go. Artifacts that express where you are with your muse at that specific time.

    You’ve created your own theater space called “Rewilding” that gave you a stage to display your artistic ideas and communicate them to all of us out here in america: the audience that fills the theater and watches raptly, then responds (as I am here) to your artistic pieces.

    Now however, you’re feeling like the whole stage itself won’t fit your muse. You feel limited by the theater you’ve been using for a decade now – you feel like some people are associating you with the theater (the artifice – the word “rewilding”) and whatever they’re projecting onto it (hatred sometimes, and other stretches), instead of understanding that it’s really never been about the theater for you, fundamentally. The theater is just a dead space. It’s always been about the SPIRIT – the exploration of your muse in real time, that is the meat of what you’re about.

    Seeing that people are limiting the bounds of your expression to this artifice, this wooden theater stage of ‘Rewilding,’ makes you feel like “fuck rewilding. This term, which I coined, is old fucking news. It’s an artifact. It’s like performing on a fossil. I’m moving on before people think I’m a fossil too! (that is: hold you to the fossilized pieces that make up Rewild or Die, and basically kill your trajectory there in the theater of Rewilding, to lay and languish in perpetual pathetic fossilized shame.)”

    But I’ll tell you what brother – think of it like Ziggy Stardust – it was a mantle you created and wore (this word rewild, these essays of Rewild or Die, the tone you took in them) – that seem to you like you’re a bit of a martian spaceman singing far out lyrics that you can’t always relate to…

    So this is what you do – You publish “Rewild or Die,” then you have a primal ritual to pre-empt modern society’s obsession with fossilizing/killing/martyring its artists: you have a final spectacular cathartic farewell/suicide concert to the term rewild. A sacrificial pyre – the word dies so that your muse (which is WAY beyond the confines of the word Rewild) can live.

    You walk away from the burned out hull of the piece you created, as the artist: Peter Bauer, creator, not crushed by the weight of, or owned by, or calcified by, his own work. Not able to be piegon-holed by haters or fossilizers the world over. You’re one step ahead of them.

    As David Bowie was the master of the pop artifact Ziggy, so you are the master of the pop artifact “Rewild or Die.” You have to give it its last suicide celebration, and walk away unscathed. Let that stage of your life say it’s last words, it’s adieu. Put out the book as a time piece of when you were a Martian glam rocker (that’s how it seems you feel about it these days) and triumphantly go forth! Free, reborn. Create on! Artist Peter Bauer.

  11. I getcha Scout. “Real nature is not “green”. Like “organic”, “natural” “eco-friendly” are mostly now, loosely mandated corporate advertising terms.
    It is Biomimicmarketing… if I spelled that right.
    Your keen observation forsees labels limiting notions but it doesn’t matter really about the words them selves, only the true meaning behind them and the actions taken to support those thoughts and ideas…

    You should find this interesting.

    Take care Scout, good luck with your book

  12. Thanks everyone for your comments. I didn’t mean to make it sound like I’m gonna give up on the word entirely! Just you, know… had to make it clear what my goals are outside of some static, dangerous dogmatic, literate culture we live in! 🙂

    Mattheo, the scythians are the last indigenous “white” people as far as I can tell. Truly indigenous, not farmers and conquerers like the celts, etc. Of course, then ended up doing all that. LOL. but its the furthest back a “white” person can trace their own indigenous culture. I’m reading “The Horse, The Wheel and Language” which is all about that stuff. Great book.

    Hey Esmeh, I’m not “afraid” I’m embarrassed that what I have told here is not an accurate representation of what I think anymore. I’m embarrassed for myself. LOL!

    Wild Girl, No worries! I’m still going to publish my book and stuff, so I’m sure you’ll end up with a copy at some point. 🙂

    Gabe, Dude I love how you compared me to David Bowie. hahaha. That’s totally awesome! Great thoughts and I totally agree. Maybe I’ll get to play in a movie with puppets some day. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  13. Well jeez, a lot has already been said here. I just wanted to add some notes about the evolution of personality, and about hate.

    As far as your personal views changing, as I think has already been brought up here, that’s totally the way it goes all the time anyway. I’ve started many projects of different kinds over the years and sometimes they stretch out just a little too far. Whenever this happens, I always find fault with the way it was handled or with the resulting content. So take this as a lesson in crafting – don’t stretch it out over too long a time, or you’ll end up wanting to keep rewriting the whole thing. My advice is to take notes (even very detailed notes, with occasional passages about something you feel strongly about) and then, after you feel your notes and experience are sufficient to complete the work in some form, do it! In a matter of months, or at most a year or two. Inevitably, you’ll disagree with some of that later on, but at least it’s finished and consistent throughout. Spreading the production of it out over so many years in effect can make it more like a journal, which is great in its own right but not quite the same as a book attempting to convey a consistent message.

    Okay and as for “hate” and not wanting to be a part of it! This is a subject I am still very much digging into (as with plenty else), so my views on this might (or WILL) change. I try to approach things from a logical viewpoint, and proceed with the assumption that Balance is always the way of the Earth. First off, wherever there is Love, there will be Hate. The capacity for one brings the capacity for the other, and so cannot be erased without also erasing the other. So rather than trying to cast out any form of hate, I would suggest that what’s more important is self-discipline and careful consideration for when each is appropriate. Consider also that, as Love is an “ultimate” form of Liking, so is Hate an “ultimate” form of disliking. It doesn’t make sense to me that only Loving, Liking, and Disliking should be “approved.” Example: You are out hunting with your dog (a friend of many years), and your dog steps on a very-well-hidden metal-toothed animal trap from someone else that you couldn’t spot. Many emotions could come out of this – I’ll bet one of them will be *ultimate dislike* (Hate) for the presence of the trap, and maybe the person who set it up, for not being smart enough to realize what it might cause. This doesn’t mean the hate will be permanent or that forgiveness should be impossible. Now consider if it was a child of yours who got his or her foot stuck in the trap. Or even the possibility, in some case, that the trap was really intended to trap that individual. Hmm? I bet you’d have quite a lot of anger, rage, hate, in that moment. I personally think it would be “wrong” to Like or only Dislike what happened in that instance. If you do not ever hate, I think you’ll be unable to see the serious immoralities when they come up. And in the extreme case, if one constantly Loved/Liked everything all the time, this would be a contradictory emotion, for those Loved/Liked things which directly contradict each other.

    As I see it, there is always a time for Love and a time for Hate (where they are hopefully balanced with one another in the end). I am interested in any counter-points there are to this. I think in terms of “rewilding”, I would look at what civilization (anti-wildness) causes to the Earth and its Life, and be filled with much hate. What I would DO about that hate is another matter with its own moral considerations.

  14. damn gabe…i love that response…wise words indeed and made me think of the multi-dimensionality of of death being just as applicable to the abstract as it is to the business of living!

  15. Ah, Peter-Your wisdom and bravery is consistently astounding in its trajectory. And inspiring. Publish. And make this entry your last chapter (which I somehow missed until just now…) Gabe D said it best, and I’d say has an intimate muse-relationship, too. What Gabe said, what you said, and then keep saying what the muse tells you. Besides, that’s something, too: Did you say it? Or did your muse? If you don’t publish, aren’t you disappointing the muse *and* the salmon? I know you’re mostly speaking your thoughts here and not necessarily going to refrain from publishing, but… So am I… But just in case, you really might wanna check with your muse and the salmon (in case they aren’t the same beings! 😉 before making any decisions 🙂
    Regardless, I remain WILDLY Grateful for your collaborative salmon-muse voice…

  16. I always found it pretty ironic that you’ve done a hell of a lot more to put content into the word “rewild” than the APs that created it.

  17. I came to this blog via a Google search for something permaculture related and became quite interested to learn much more about your perspective; at least as presented through this site. Stick with me for a moment, there’s a point coming up…

    I am a graduate of several Tracker School courses, and, perhaps more importantly, an implementer of the skills I gained from my experience. I am also a permaculture designer and homeowner (home mortgagor) who is soon to be a steward and agroforester, or analog forester, of a sizeable tract of land. Buddhism, ancient civilizations, and the evolution of human consciousness deeply inspire me, and systems theory has become a new and fascinating lens through which I view the world.

    Reading through this site, and this post in particular, has helped me tremendously by shining light on an outdated belief I have been carrying around. The idea of wilderness, or nature, or the earth, as a magical and pure place that has been negatively impacted by human action is an absolute fantasy. Not because we are not currently destructive, but simply because we have no idea whatsoever what wild or wilderness is.

    I propose the observer effect: everything that is observed is effected by the observer. As long as we, human beings, have existed, we have been observing and interacting with the natural world. All human knowledge concerning nature has been gained by interacting with, and therefore effecting, the natural world. We simply cannot know what wild is; we can merely choose what we bring to it.

    That being said, the implementation of mutual beneficialism seems to be an appropriate solution. If we must, by default, effect some change on the natural world, at least we can aim to make that change a mutually beneficial act. The fact that many indigenous peoples continue to successfully cultivate and sustain a harmonious relationship with their environment is likely due to their understanding of such an arrangement.

    We, as westernized, civilized, linear-thinking people, have mostly forgotten the tremendous support that can be gained from a mutually beneficial relationship with our environment. Maybe this is due to a lack of cultural mythology, spiritual arrogance, or unwillingness to accept our own mortality; whatever the reason, it might not be important. What is important is to become aware of the destructive (including self destructive) quality of our actions, know that there is a genuine alternative, and begin to support ourselves by supporting the natural systems in place.

    The continued survival of our culture or society is really irrelevant; we all die sometime. All that is really relevant is the ability of each of us who desires to live to fully engage with the world in a symbiotic way. It might not be rewilding, or whatever label comes next, but it would be a step toward achieving the same kind of balance that has nurtured indigenous people in Australia, Africa and South America for thousands of years.

    It takes a great deal of courage to walk on the edge and report to the world, so my hat’s off to you. Thanks for letting me add a few lines.

    Ride on.

  18. intervenor: I see where you’re coming from insofar as “wild” is inevitably just a intellectual, abstract concept like any other. However, I feel the referant for the term is very real. Humans have been interacting with wilderness for millions of years. /Wild/ humans have interacted with other wild beings in dynamic but sustained ecologies for most of human history. It is only in the past few thousands of year (hundreds, in most ecosystems) that domesticated humans have been interacting with wild beings.

  19. Well, at the risk of beating a dead horse I will honor my reading time with my contribution.

    I’ve thought much about similar concepts. I spent much of twenties as a folk musician with aspirations of stardom. I am currently a father and that has mellowed out such drives. I think a lot about such things though. I am an artist and a prolific songwriter and my music was much appreciated by many many people. I think at times about performing again or writing a book or painting.. One of the first thought cycles in that pertains to legacy. We have become much enamored of legacy in modern life. We want to be an individual human rather than a face of Human. I am currently trying to get farther away from ego before I put something out for folks to hear or see. I don’t want what I do to be tainted by a desire for a legacy. I believe in the beauty of Human and not just human. I want to be interested rather than interesting. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to be interesting. I sometimes think that recorded thought (in books or music) like mirrors, taints our view… removes us from ourselves.. Narcissus is alive in all of us “modern” humans. Perhaps in the end I will try to just tell my stories and play my songs to those in front of me and never from a stage but rather in a circle and then I’ll thank the Spirit, fold my hands and see what the person next to me will dazzle us with. By the way, I appreciate what you are doing and your time in developing your thoughts. And yes, you will change completely if you live long enough. There are patterns in the human life cycle. My writings of yesterday are amusing to me when they are now considered foolish, and yet somewhere someone has a scratchy recording of my old songs that they listen to everyday and those songs mean the world to them at times. There is no black and white, perhaps there isn’t even any gray. Live how your living. Be who you’re being. Enjoy… or don’t.