An American woman this week was killed by a lioness at a South African private animal park. Against park rules, she and her husband were driving through the park with their windows down. The lioness came up to the passenger window, attacked the woman and killed her.
I was at a friend’s house when the news came on the television. I turned and said: “I grew up around wild nature in Missouri. I have a healthy respect for wild animals. People have lost all sense of the dangers of the wild. They think these predators are human or domesticated.”
I keep thinking about this. We not only forget that dangerous wildlife exists, we forget our own inner wild beast. We domesticate ourselves, and in so doing we lose the raw animal energy in our writing, and in whatever art we practice. We tame ourselves into politically correct dialogue, bland prose, paint-by-number artwork, boring musical notes and uninspired singing.
What creates this need to tone ourselves down, to fit ourselves into boxes? I think deep down we know these untamed sides of ourselves are dangerous, uncontrollable, licentious, even murderous. We know if we don’t control them we can get ourselves into serious trouble. Living wild and free can feel too much like living life in a big game park with the windows rolled down.
So how do we honor these primal natures without getting ourselves into serious trouble? How do we cultivate a healthy respect for the dangers of our wild inner selves?
I went to therapists in my 30s for this very understanding. I was a wild child who grew into a wild young adult. For a while, to keep my wild-ass self out of wild-ass trouble, I shut down the raw side. I became a cardboard cut-out of my real self, bored and boring. The naughty inner girl would rear her head suddenly and explosively, until I was able to push her back down , but not before having to deal with real-life consequences to my actions.
One therapist finally suggested I channel my wildness into my writing; years later another helped me pour my crazy libido into visual art.
These days, I have whole phases where I feel passionate and uninhibited, raw, rough and wild — WITH the window rolled up. I channeled a raucous portion of myself into my first novel Earth.
But before we can learn to channel the uncivilized sides of our natures, we first have to own that we HAVE them, to open up, and to feel that animal energy coursing from crotch, to gut, to heart. Only then can we wolf howl that energy from our throats, from our fingertips and into our art.
Read more about Caroline Allen’s novels and artwork at www.carolineallen.com.