The Wild PlaneEssays, Featured — By Paul Luikart on September 12, 2012 at 6:25 am
When mankind puts his ear to the wall and really listens, he will hear the thrum of wildness behind it. This is the never-ending impulse to thrive on a plane of existence deeper and more dangerous than what can ever be experienced in the plane of the day-to-day, the civilized, the waking life. The Wild plane, that plane of existence just beyond physical realization, real just beyond the fingertips of consciousness, is fully beautiful, beauty beyond the ability to understand it, so beautiful that to pursue it is an actual hazard. Existence upon the Wild plane is infinitely more rewarding to the soul than existence on the ordinary plane, though the ordinary plane, its customs, its usualness, not to mention its relative safety, is the preferred plane for nearly everybody. He who hears the call of the Wild and attempts to synthesize it on his own terms with his normal goings-on will never truly understand the call. He’ll have to attribute it to a continual ringing in his ears, a sort of tinnitus of the soul.
Mankind has always tried to tame the Wild, what he knows of it, in order to make it more materially understandable. The initial urge to tame the Wild must have been born simply from a need to survive. In the physical world, Wildness untamed and directly experienced has the potential to kill, so on the one hand, it must be made manageable if the species is to propagate. (Cavemen invented spears for the stabbing of saber-tooth cats, for example.) But attempts to domesticate the Wild in the physical realm are also, perhaps inadvertently so, attempts to domesticate the Wild in the psychic realm. Housebreaking the Wild might provide some kind of physical protection, but it also provides mankind with the illusion he’s satisfied. This thin peace of mind, this mental safety net, has become as important to mankind as his physical safety, though he may not fully recognize the prominent role psychic safety plays in the day-to-day.
Mankind’s attempts to moderate the psychic effects of the Wild are not malicious. He is dual-natured, fearful and curious, and would comprehend the Wild plane without fully giving himself to it. But, to handle the Wild in any way apart from complete immersion is only an effort to settle it, an effort to bring it to the day-to-day without damaging either it or the day-to-day. Bidding to settle any part of the Wild means to compromise the Wild completely, though mankind may not have initially wished for this. So there is an impasse: the Wild cannot enter the day-to-day on man’s terms without losing its identity as Wild and the day-to-day cannot enter the Wild plane, lest the world of the day-to-day suffer great pains, even death. But the scream of the Wild, that maddening invitation, will not be quiet, will never go away.
Good news for mankind: there exists a certain subset of his own to which the duty of interaction with the Wild plane has been given. These are the artists. Mediators of the Wild. To them, Wildness takes a form, a great animal, which allows itself to be squeezed, played with, filtered into representations on the canvas, twists of words in the novel, and harmonious flights of the vocal chords. It’s no easy privilege. The art-maker must first acknowledge the call of the Wild in his own life, then acknowledge that his mind alone is an inadequate vessel by which to experience it. Next, he must honestly explore the wilderness of his thoughts and impulses, and here he begins to cede control to the leading of the Wild itself. No artist may sojourn on the Wild plane alone; no artist may make real art without the Wild before him. Wildness itself must be his guide. What the art-maker will eventually find is this: When he is pushing the boundaries of his creativity, he teeters on a precipice above a rampage of chaos, and this is the destination to which the Wild animal has finally brought him. Here the Wild allows the artist, now thoroughly humbled by what he knows, to become its spokesman, to reflect its true nature back to the plane of the day-to-day.
To the person who says, “I don’t need art,” the question, “How will you cope with the Wild?” is automatically posed. Art is the only way by which the Wild agrees to terms with humanity. Without art, the Wild will still flow into the day-to-day plane, will still wash over everyone, but will manifest itself on its own hideous terms: addiction, crime, delusional thinking. Anything falsely transcendent, where the bridges are not level, but slope downward at ever increasing angles. The falsely transcendent is the ass-end of the day-to-day plane. The inevitable outcome of the denial of Wild.
Art-making at its most essential is decivilizing a poisonous normal. The person who makes art agrees to be the Wild’s conduit to the everyday. The artist as wormhole between planes of existence. The Wild’s desire, to accurately portray the What Is and the What Could Be, becomes the art-maker’s desire: a desire that, without proper representation, that is to say art itself, on this side of the line between the Wild world and the civilized world, could in no way be subsumed. Understanding the Wild, a thing that was, is and always will be and therefore must not be ignored, is quite impossible without what the artist makes. Therefore, a charge is given to the artist, to direct the day-to-day in step with the Wild’s drumbeat that the day-to-day may, in shedding the trappings of false civility, grow in the ways of more beautiful civilization.