Every wilderness is home to some community of creatures living in complex webs of relationship with each other and the environment, whatever its features. What is alien and remote to humankind is familiar and intimate to them. Being keenly aware of that makes us better visitors in their home.
We have much to gain from going into the wilderness. If we do it with mindful humility, we will learn a great deal, not only about the wilderness and the creatures who call it home, but about ourselves.
Wilderness is not only “out there,” but also “in here.” We all have an interior wilderness, a place in our deepest self where we don’t spend much time. We’re too busy, too distracted by many things, too available to other people and media. We might even be a bit afraid of that interior space where nothing else is going on except our most secret hopes, desires, beliefs, fears, doubts and prejudices. Going into the wilderness out there can be a way to go inward as well.
We can also lose by going into the wilderness. Dangers lurk there, especially for the careless, the over-confident, the arrogant. Dangers lurk in the interior wilderness as well. If we are true to the quest, we might have to revise our opinions, not only of our selves but of other things we care deeply about as well. We might have to loosen our death grip on the certainties on which we have built our ego and identity.
Is that a loss? Probably not, in the long run. But it will feel like dying.