The word wildness comes from the old English roots, wilde and –ness, together meaning: state of being untamed, uncultivated, undomesticated.
The typical synonyms listed in thesauruses and online are: fury, unconstraint, abandon, wantonness, violence, vehemence, furiousness, ferocity, fierceness, turbulence, barbarity, savagery – all terms denoting lack of control, restraint, rules or limits.
Rather than these, though, I thought of the following: state of being unfettered, freedom, openness, lack of confinement – terms that have a less negative connotation, that have less of the derogatory about them.
This little exercise shows how language can easily color thought, how language many times has imprinted in it certain perceptions – perhaps from time immemorial – that may not be true or fitting in all cases or circumstances – and that it can sometimes be stifling or deadening; that choosing certain words over others can change the whole intent or direction of a piece of writing, of what one is saying, or how it is perceived by the reader or the listener.
Looking at those standard synonyms again, one gathers that wildness is something we should always seek to avoid. It’s filled with uncertainty; it may bring us to places or states of being or courses of action that we may not be able to handle or understand, or that aren’t civilized, predictable, artful, wise or prudent– at least in a cultured sense – the way that language itself is managed and manageable, controlled and controlling.
Well then, I thought, long live wildness!
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(c) Gregory V Driscoll 2011