© Roger de la Harpe

'Wilderness' has different meanings for different people. To some it is a physical area, while for others it is a psychological 'place' or state of mind. In most cases it is manifested by a satisfying experience of freedom, peace and quiet. It would appear that, at times, many other species have a similar need.

The Place

Physical 'Wilderness' is a concept that is relative to the experience of each individual. To those who have lived in 'wild' areas, the concept is of a completely 'pristine' area with no visual signs or sounds of humanity. To others it may be a quiet area within an agricultural setting. It may be a natural stretch of river, a hidden valley, a secluded hill, a patch of forest or even the upper branches of a large tree.

To urban residents it may be a secluded garden or a quiet corner of some suburban park, where they are accustomed to ignoring the background sounds of humanity. It may even be a particular room in the house, a large hall, a chapel or cathedral with the 'right' atmosphere or a deserted part of the workplace.

Some find 'wilderness' while 'encapsulated' in a beautiful musical experience. The 'pristine' concept, based on an historic, completely natural world, is a flawed dream. If we are to believe scientific evidence, most of the present beautiful places were under water or relatively featureless mud flats in the past.

Temperatures were very different. There was little of the present plant life and vastly different forms of animal life to that presently existing. Over time, the valleys and canyons have been carved out, rock formations have developed and mountains have been pushed up or left standing by massive erosion.

No area is the same as it used to be and change is constantly taking place. Historic descriptions and personal memories form the 'pristine' or 'wilderness' concept in each individual. The definition of 'Natural' is a relative term which is dynamic and constantly changing with time.

The Experience

'Wilderness', as a general concept, is a place free from human manipulation and control. A place free from perceived greed and hate. A place where humanity gives more than it takes out for 'self '. It is a place where 'natural laws' operate freely and where human involvement is restricted to accountable enjoyment and responsible actions.

A place where each individual can experience a feeling of being a part of and belonging to creation. Where humble 'souls' are unconditionally accepted as a meaningful entity in God's masterpiece.

This 'desired' experience is precious to those who know where to find it but elusive to those embroiled in materialism. There is another 'wilderness' which we would not voluntarily choose to enter. The inhospitable vastness of icecap, desert and ocean are fearful and threatening to those unprepared. Similarly, there is a frightening wilderness of the mind - where we find ourselves lost, aimless and wandering without ambition or hope.

This is an unpleasant wilderness from which we can only escape through direction, motivation and encouragement. A beneficial wilderness experience requires preparation, planning and discipline.

Genuine Or Contrived?

Genuine wilderness opportunities are diminishing rapidly with the spread of global greed. Most 'mega' species are depleted and commercialised or manipulated by agriculture or in the name of research. With our ability to overcome climatic restrictions the remaining wildernessm frontiers, including inner space, are becoming clogged with human debris.

Maybe the time has come to turn towards other concepts of wilderness that still abound - the micro- world through which we stride and within our own communities. There is nothing wrong with 'nature' that can't be rectified by a change in human attitudes. Unless we do change our attitudes or cease our interference the destruction will escalate despite our knowledge and technology.

We are the problem and we need to address the cause. Some genuine physical and intrinsic wilderness experience is vital in the healing of human attitudes. Persistent media abuse or mockery of all that is 'Credible', in gimmicky advertising and cheap commercialisation, dulls public perception of what is genuine. Poverty, suffering, illness, pregnancy, children and race are too casually used to manipulate donors.

Classical music, religion, and nature are cheapened for commercial gain. Instead of natural sounds or quiet commentary to accompany the excellent photography of National Geographic and other nature films, the space is filled with imbecilic drumming and cacophony. Human attitudes are being twisted by use of the 'Credible' for pretence and deception.

If we contort all that is genuine we will become trapped in that fearful wilderness within. The time has always been right for the mass of good and decent opinion to counteract the evil in society. Only by doing so will we ensure the stimulating fronts of wilderness so necessary for our own renewal.

By Dave Rushworth

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