22 February 2009

Cultivating the Wild

I've been reading Gary Snyder as part of my research towards developing a bioregional economy. The Practice of the Wild revolves around the phrase 'wild and free' which Snyder explores from many different angles. Only through recognising our wild, animal selves can we be truly free.

Snyder has interesting things to say about the commons, which he considers, far from the tragedy as described by neoclassical economics, to be rather a management system for shared resources that comfortably balances control and anarchy. Common land and seas were traditional to many cultures and were not over-exploited because they were organised under a system of social norms and sanctions.

A friend from Stroud tells me about his youth spent in the Yorkshire dales, where the grazing land was shared between farmers who were responsible for mending the bits of wall around their pasturage. The sheep had their own culture of place, recognising the distance they could travel and when they reached the boundary of their flock's piece of grassland.

Acknowledging that we are nothing special as a species, and that lions and sheep alike have culture and wisdom is part of the practice of the wild. In my small way I have made some progress by befriending a field-mouse. Fortunately it keeps its distance since we first collided last autumn and I responded by leaping onto the nearest chair in uncharacteristically (as Snyder would say instinctive) girly fashion.

Being new to mice I sought advice from various friends who suggested a range of harsh routes to death for my harmless furry companion. I could not face killing it, and followed the advice of a wilder friend who suggested I befriend and feed it. I've learned that mice do like cheese, and also nuts and oats. I hope I'm also learning something about my wild side. One thing I know for certain: it is more soulful to have a wild friend that you never see than a tamed pet that sits on your lap.

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