It started as a persistent whisper. Quite but very present, voicing its thoughts at the most unexpected times, in the most unexpected places. It popped up in movies, out of the mouths of friends, in the pages of books—like an orchestrated campaign, seemingly just for me. The world, it seems, had a message that it wanted to make sure I heard.
It all started with Fantastic Mr. Fox, a movie that was misunderstood and promoted for children despite being made for adults. Or it was really intended for children and I'm less evolved than I think. I'm open to both options. Anyways, as you may have gathered, it is a movie about a fox, but not just any fox. Unlike your normal fox family, this fox family has all the trapping of civilization--tailored clothes, kitchens and the dishes that come with them, houses and the mortgages that come with those, jobs. Mr. and Mrs. Fox have their fair share of marital strife and both constantly want what is best for their children. Mr. Fox just can't quite catch happiness, because in the back of his mind he's wondering if the path he's has choosen is the right one. Anything sounding familiar?
There are mad farmers, stolen chickens, and addictive apple cider, but in this children’s/adult’s tale all comes back to this: we're all wild animals. Despite Mr. and Mrs. Fox's trappings of civilization, they can't fight the wild and are in fact, only successful when they embrace it.
Mr. Fox to Mrs. Fox: "I think I have this thing were I need everyone to think I’m the greatest…"
Mrs. Fox to Mr. Fox: "I know, you're a wild animal. We're all wild animals."
Mr. Fox to Mrs. Fox: "I guess we always were. I think it might be all the beautiful differences among us that might just give us a chance."
Then it showed up in a book, The Heroes of the Frontier. All throughout it actually, but mostly here:
“She was a star, a natural being of the theater, meant to exaggerate and eviscerate the attempted dignities of being human. Animals! her body was saying. You are animals. I am an animal. It's good to be an animal!”
Then out of a yoga teacher’s mouth. Then a friend describing his sense of being stuck, of wanting to feel challenged and afraid. To feel a quiver of wild.
We are all wild animals! the world whispered, again and again. But what world, do you mean by this?
Maybe, just maybe, all of the convenience and optimization we introduce into our lives to make this easier and that quicker works against us. Because you see, what we all want, desperately, is to prove our courage and our worth. It is a drive as innate as breathing and as true as our wildness, but it is very hard when our lives are set up to minimize challenge. By being over-prepared and hyper-optimized we limit the space where we can be creative, fly by the seat of our pants, find out what we are made of, and possibly prove our greatness. We limit the possibilities. We need things to break in order to fix them. We need hardship because we crave the overcoming. But when is the last time you invited hardship in your door?
The soul needs space- blank, unplanned space that could go as right as it could wrong. Because we're wild animals; because we are wild.
Maybe the most civilized thing about us is not our machines, or our houses and their mortgages, or our fancy clothes, but maybe it is our ability to recognize the animal buried in each of us. This burning desire in each of us to just have a chance to prove what we’re made of. So the next person you see on the street, instead of just passing them by, look at them as something beautiful and wild trapped in a human’s body—as a fantastic force of courage, and action and grit looking for an outlet.
It feels good to be seen as fantastic. It’s good to be a wild animal.
I haven't included any recipes because the food that seemed most fitting to our wild summer was defined by its simplicity--fresh produce and meats cooked over an open flame; canned sardines soaked up with hunks of fresh bread enjoyed on a hike; sandwiches from roadside stops. Perfect for these wild animals.