There’s a theory I’ve been playing around with for a while. I pull it from the cupboard on special occasions, dust it off, and see how it fits with the current times. Sometimes it seems like just the thing, and in others it crumbles into dust. I can’t get myself to get rid of it, though. Perhaps it’s become sentimental. Perhaps I suspect I might need it one day. For a certainty, it is an idea that deserves proper articulation. What to do with it afterward I leave to you.
The theory starts with a story. In Japan, wolves are extinct. They were once plentiful in the paradisal wilderness of the Japanese archipelago. Their population began to decline in 1732 when rabies was introduced to the island. In response to increased aggression, persistent human persecution hunted wolves to extinction, killing the last wolf in Nara during the year 1905. However, the wolf has been afforded a benign place in Japanese folklore, often associated with something like a deity of the mountain.
As it often does, Japanese animation expanded folklore and history into something more. As I often do, I took this story and extracted a theory of the world. In the anime Wolf’s Rain, wolves and humans are old enemies. Humans hunted wolves to extinction, only not all were destroyed. The last remaining wolves took on the appearance of humans and hid amongst human society.
A description of the wolves may be necessary to understand the human’s drastic measures. A wolf a wild, instinctual creature. It operates on intuition combined with heightened sensory faculties. They are powerful, physically and mentally. They are capable of terrible, violent things. They form packs and do not play nicely with those outside of their pack. Intensely competitive and competent, they are a force not to be taken lightly.
There is a motivation embedded in the core of every wolf. One that is paramount to all other drives. That is the quest to find Paradise. Paradise is a place, no, it is a door that is opened by someone. It is a physical location that every wolf knows exists, but no wolf has ever been to. No other creature can understand the wolf’s drive to find this place.
How does a wolf find Paradise? It follows the scent of lunar flowers and it’s own instincts. No other creature is capable of tracking that delicate scent to it’s destination. No other creature would even try. No other creature would even know where to start.
As we’ve said, the remaining wolves have gone into hiding. They’ve donned the appearance of the human and attempted to live a docile, quiet life. The wolves remain hidden, even from each other. They may walk by each other on the street and have no recognition of their bond nor recollection of their proud past. There are wolves who have denied their call to Paradise. They work as dogs, pulling sleds for humans. They mock wolves that seek Paradise; they claim it doesn’t exist. These are disillusioned wolves seek only to live out the rest of their days. Paradise doesn’t exist. It can’t exist. They’ve turned their back on their nature.
For the heroes of this story, a group of young wolves, there is no denying that deepest of drives. No ignoring the scent of lunar flowers. They set off from their place in the slums on a long journey to Paradise. During their journey, they encounter other wolves and a curious scene plays out. There is a moment, an instantaneous change, when two wolves, disguised as humans, encounter one another. They play at being human for a while, acting out the role of harmless little them. Then one of the slips, or one of them becomes acutely aware. They realize that what they are dealing with is another wolf.
For a creature who has been deprived of the company of their own species for the entirety of their life, this can be a tremendous occasion. Finally, they have met someone like them. Someone who experiences a heightened sense of the world. Who dislikes the mindless buzzing of humanity. Who seeks to chase the scent of flowers and run wild in aeonian fields. Who is capable, instinctual, deeply emotional. Here is someone who, like them, is seeking Paradise.
This moment is what I’ve come to call a Wolf Moment, and it is no mere story. There can occur a tangible change in relationship among people. A pair may encounter each other dozens of times. Perhaps at various lectures or in passing. Maybe they share a friend in common and are pleasant to each other at parties. Their conversations are okay and their disposition toward each other agreeable.
Then they catch a scent.
Perhaps someone says something that no mere human would say. Maybe they share a look which is too full of understanding to be ignored. In this moment, they acknowledge each other as wolves. Their relationship is never the same.
Finally! they say. I’ve found someone who has the wherewithal to partake in authentic conversation. Someone who seeks to engage in the problems of life. Who desires to take on the challenge of being. Here is someone who will search for Paradise. We call this the meeting of wolves; it is perhaps the greatest feeling next to scent of the lunar flower.
Let’s summarize. The theory goes something like this. In the world, there exist two creatures. Humans: complacent, pleasant, docile. Wolves: capable, instinctual, seeking of Paradise. Out of necessity, wolves hide among humans, and in doing so hide themselves from each other. Wolves encounter each other and have what is called a Wolf Moment. They then reveal their true nature.
Over the years, I’ve had several Wolf Moments. I’d go out for coffee with someone and become enthralled by their way of being. I’d share moments that are so implicitly understood by both parties that they could not be explained by anything but a shared instinct. I thought at first that this meant they would then join me on my own quest toward Paradise. My life would be an accumulating of wolves and we would face, head on, the challenges of the world. Perhaps I’d even be the leader of this wolf pack.
Only, that’s not precisely how it’s played out. In my first articulation of this theory, I thought that it meant I could accumulate people to help me in my goals. We would cooperate, compete and accomplish all manner of endeavors. I quickly realized that people don’t necessarily agree on what constitutes Paradise. On top of that, it’s not always the case that a pack of wolves will remain together.
After a particular pack of friendships slipped away, I put Wolf Theory on the shelf. I would have what might constitute a Wolf Moment, but then I’d hesitate to use it to describe this new friend. After all, who was I to say that they were seeking Paradise? What did I even mean when I said Paradise? Why should I seek to align this person’s ideal with my own? On top of that, this whole bloody idea came from an anime. How could I possibly explain that to this person felicitously?
That really hit on something important. What do I mean by Paradise? It’s the ultimate ideal, sure. It’s the place my instincts guide me toward, that sense of meaning and purpose pulling me along. It’s what makes the suffering of the world justifiable. But what is it?
Well, right now, it’s the proposition that I get to spend time with my friends a couple times a week. That I get to dance with others and be inspired enough to dance on my own. It means I get to do work I find meaningful and feel a sense of progression. It’s a feeling of coherence in the narrative of my life. It’s a large breakfast and a stable sleep schedule.
Perhaps what I just described is the feeling of pursuing Paradise. Heaven knows what I’ll actually do when I get there.
In terms of Wolf Theory, let’s see if we can’t develop it just a little further. The occurrence of the Wolf Moment seems to be an observed and tangible notion. I’m not ready to discard it; I think it’d be a disservice to discard it. What needs work is what it means to be a wolf who has found another wolf. There need not be an implicit agreement that these two will join forces to battle the dark, or even to be part of a pack. I think this is because the scent of lunar flowers can lead two people to very different places.
Our internal drive to attain the highest possible good does not afford us identical navigation systems for finding it. There is no reason to believe that the Paradise you are seeking is the one I am seeking. However, as I said before, Paradise is a door that is opened by someone. When one wolf has caught the scent, that spreads. When the door is opened, it ushers the way for those fearless enough to follow their intuition. Perhaps the best we can do as wolves together in the world is remind each other of the scent of a flower.
So I will place Wolf Theory back in the cupboard. I’ll let it age and gather dust. When I call on it, I will articulate it back into something resembling knowledge. Until then, I’ll will listen for those howling at the moon.