Gold foil illustration of stars


The Awareness That You Are Not at Home in the Wilderness

Sometimes you move through the city and feel in your bones how strange and new this all is—the spectacle of modern civilization, just barely older than you are, with its cramped logic, its rules and gridlines and rigid justifications for why the world must be the way it is. And there’s a part of you that thinks, You are not at home here. That still remembers Eden, and longs to return.

The story of humanity is a move from the countryside to the big city. But it’s happened so fast that our brains are still stuck in the hinterlands. There’s a part of you that longs to leave your car idling in traffic, hop the fence, and flee into the forest. To wander for miles through open territory, forced by fate to live in the moment, your eyes glued to the horizon, your ears tuned to the rustling of leaves. To feel the lushness and harshness of the wild, the clarity of eating and killing and growing stronger. To live off the land without tools or simulations, and experience nature in all its simplicity— raw, indifferent, and ferociously real.

And yet, another part of you knows that Eden is a fantasy. Even our oldest symbols of nature are deeply unnatural: the plants we eat are sterile, swollen, unrecognizable to the food chain. Our domesticated animals are mere caricatures of their wild ancestors. The family dog is just another piece of technology, designed and bred to serve a purpose. And you too are a domesticated animal, shrouded in synthetic fibers and synthetic thoughts. Even if you wander off to sleep in the woods with a stove and a backpack, everything from the buzzing in your ears to the howling in the distance will be trying to tell you, You are not at home here. As much as you want to sink your claws into the dirt, you’ll always be floating somewhere above it, trailing clouds of civilization wherever you go.

We need to believe in the fall from Eden. We need to believe that we corrupted a place that had always been pure. But maybe all along, we had the story backward. Maybe we were the ones who cast out the jungle, who stripped it naked, and tried to teach it good and evil, breaking it down into pieces that served a purpose. We couldn’t handle the true state of nature— the overwhelming chaos, the corruption and the mutations, the fluidity of interconnections and the fecundity of the soil, where nothing is pure, where life and death are intertwined. So we decided to turn away, barricading ourselves in a walled garden.Maybe we were wrong from the start. In the beginning, there was everything.

Scottish Gaelic balla gàrraidh, garden wall. Pronounced “bah-luh-gah-rahy” or “bah-lah-ghaw-rah.”

Treachery Of The Common