Forty-five years ago or more, I tried reading Thoreau’s On Walden Pond. I say “tried” because I couldn’t get into it and gave up the effort after fifteen or twenty pages. And that pretty well describes all I know about Thoreau: I just can’t get into him.
But the quote on the bumper sticker interested me, so I contemplated it as I drove. “All things.” I assume that means all living things, because it would be hard to describe an inanimate object as either wild or free.
Imagine, for instance, your response if I said something like this: I love having central heat in this kind of weather. Our furnace is new, energy efficient, and the whole system, everything that makes my house warm, is wild. It’s free, too!
Ummm… okay. So it’s only living things we’re talking about. Does this mean there are no good house dogs? A gentle and productive family milk cow can’t be good because she’s confined? My backyard grapevines aren’t good because I prune them?
The quote seems to suggest—though I’ll admit it doesn’t state—that all things wild and free are good. That’s only the case if you define “good” differently than most people do. The Ebola virus isn’t good, for instance, unless you consider it a step in the right direction where human overpopulation is concerned. But it is certainly wild and free.
Not sentient, though. Maybe “good” can only apply to something with a brain.
A person might argue that anything natural is good, even venomous creatures and man-killing tigers. It’s not wrong for a wild animal to behave in ways we humans don’t happen to like, if it’s simply the animal’s nature. We shouldn’t judge it by saying it’s not good.
I understand that point of view, but for it to work, we should carry it out to its logical conclusion. That is, if my natural inclination is to be a free spirit, it’s not a bad thing if I can’t keep a job because of poor attendance, don’t pay my rent on time, party all night, and abandon my family. It’s all good, because I’m wild and free.
Let’s not take it to extremes–that is, we’ll say there can be such a thing as a good dog, domesticated though it may be. And we won’t twist the quote around to mean the opposite of what it says–that is, all good things are wild and free, but not all things wild and free are necessarily good.
Okay, then. What does it mean?
As you may have figured out by now, when I have a moral question, I go to the Bible for the answer. And doing that is when it really got interesting.
According to the Bible, only God is good – God himself, and the good gifts he gives us (see Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19, James 1:17, etc.).
So is God wild and free? Hmm….
If “wild” is defined as not domesticated or cultivated; and if “free” means not under the control or power of another… well, then, yes.
So I guess, scripturally speaking, Thoreau was right.
And that’s what I thought about as I wove through the frozen streets of Frostburg, Maryland on Monday morning. Isn’t that a lot more fun than thinking about the weather?
I didn’t think about it until I prepared to post this, but this topic somewhat relates to my latest release, The Last Toqeph. That is, the shorter man on the front cover is wild and free. But is he good?
I’ll let you decide. Comments welcome.