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Spirit of the Wind
Choice, Instinct, and TherianthropyDisclaimer: This essay relies quite a bit on my hindsight and memory. Both, unless one is a robot, are often very flawed, even if they are the only hindsight and memory I can make use of for this purpose. Do kindly keep that in mind when reading.
Choice and therianthropy, I’m convinced, have a strange relationship. Ask an average therian about choice and you’ll be told that therianthropy is something that you can’t magically snap your fingers and make go away; it’s ingrained in a person. This is true, of course. You can’t make what’s naturally you just vanish.
What is not true is that every single therian with strong instincts won’t eventually for one reason or another lose many of those instincts. They will not magically be ‘de-therianized’. They will probably turn into an emotional and psychological wreck as they cut loose a good part of their identity, fight their instincts on a daily basis, and tell themselves that they can’t be themselves. Their instincts will merely not be as strong. Therian things will still, at least in my experience, feel right, feel natural--but there’s hardly any overriding urge anymore. What they have done, in my experience, is given themselves greater self-control. No, more than that, because one can have self-control while still having strong instincts. They have torn part of what they are away.
It happened to me, or, rather, it happened to me to some extent. I have not ‘de-therianized’ myself; I do not even know if such a thing is possible and I have no desire to test and find out because I would be my own test subject. I merely domesticated myself. I was so afraid of standing out, so afraid of giving myself away, that I built up a wall around myself, trying to keep even the slightest feline behaviors from manifesting. I feared the slightest twitch would make me instantly stand out, and panicked to think of what a snarl, or bolting, would do. Things that I do are therianthropic still feel right, feel natural. There just isn’t very much of an instinct or urge to do them. Not as much as there used to be or as much as I think that others have. Partly, I think, it is attributable to the fact that I am ruled recently more by logic than by emotion and instinct. But part is due to the systematic repression of emotion and instinct that I did a few years ago. Of course, the two are related. Part of the systematic repression of emotion and instinct was that I am now ruled more by logic. But they are not the same, not quite, for one can make logical decisions but feel a full range of instinct and emotion.
My control is very, very good. And that is, I think, a very good thing. I am a chameleon. I blend in with human society and appear to just be another neuroatypical person. If I couldn’t do that, I shudder to think of the consequences. The problem isn’t control. The problem is that my method of control also, I think, drained me of some of my emotion and many of my instincts.
The cheetah is a tame species, at least comparitively. Acinonyx jubatus has walked alongside humans for at least four thousand years. A Mesopotamian seal from three thousand years before the common era shows a cheetah on a leash. In Egypt, not only were cheetahs tamed, we were given a role in carrying the pharoahs to the afterlife. We were found with humans all over the planet... The Middle East. Afghanistan. Russia. Pakistan. India. China. Mongolia. India. And still today we are far calmer than other big cats and can be partially domesticated if raised from birth. Nor are we particularly dangerous even when we are threatened and wild, for we are weak and we know it. Look to the lions and the leopards for ferocity; the cheetah is swift, sure-footed--and cowardly. I am not ashamed of the cowardice of cheetahs, or of my own cowardice in the face of physical danger. I have my reasons, both physical and ethical.
I have been tamed, partly by myself but partly by others. There is no wild, feral cheetah in me; if it ever was there it isn’t anymore. And I find that I miss it, or miss the concept. I have an idealized image of feral, of wild, at least emotionally. Intellectually I understand that it is a mixed blessing, but emotionally it feels... right. Like spiritual fulfillment. Spiritual ecstacy, more like. And to combine knowledge and learning with feral and wild... well, that’s spiritual ecstacy to an even higher degree.
I don’t want to be domestic; I don’t want to be subdued. I get that to some extent conforming to ‘civilization’ is necessary, and I’m not proposing that I go around without any clothes on on four legs only communicating through growls, snarls, yowls, and meows. But the kind of feral and wild that I talk about isn’t that. It’s more of a quiet thing, a kind of inner strength coupled with resoluteness coupled with freedom of spirit. It’s having a predator’s edge.
To some extent, I already have this. But I feel like I’m caught in this odd in-between state, between not having it and having it. And that is something I would like to change. Having tasted these things, I wish to return to them. Lately I think that I have been... beginning... to return to them. Much of the predator’s edge and inner strength I talked about seems to have returned lately. I don’t know if that is permanent.
Guggisberg, C. A. W. 1975. Wild cats of the world. New York: Taplinger.
Kingdon, J. 1977. East African mammals. Vol. 3, part A (Carnivores). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wrogemann, N. 1975. Cheetah under the sun. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Written early 2012
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