To become feral means to flee domestication and return to the wild. Feral creatures live just beyond civilized society, along the fence rows, in the shadows of the forest’s edge. Of course the fencerow is a metaphor. One’s fencerow may take the form of joining an intentional community, of joining an urban collective, of leaving a “regular” job and pursuing freelancing, of leaving organized religion and pursuing spirituality with a group of friends in a coffee shop. It may mean selling what you have and downsizing to a tiny house. Your fencerow existence may take the radical form of leaving behind domesticity, taking to the road and becoming a nomad, a classic tramp. To become feral means to walk away from whatever is controlling you, limiting you and defining you as something other than the free animal that you are. Feral persons are still in contact with civilization, but now they engage society on their own terms.
A domesticated person begins her return to a feral state when she awakens to her enslavement. Her awakening is usually preceded by an undefinable anger. She has been angry for a long time. She has been temperamental, on edge, restless, fidgety, grumpy, depressed, and uninspired. Then one day, some unexpected event, a clarifying conversation or other experience introduces a terrifying thought in her mind that affirms what she has been feeling in her gut for years. In that moment she discovers the source of her anger and depression. She realizes for the first time that she is not free. She is aware that she has never been free. She has always been under someone’s thumb and within the gaze of an authority. She may identify her oppressors as priests or pastors, folksy types who hide their oppressive aims and shackling dogmatism behind the guise of homespun humor and feigned compassion. She may discover her enslavement embodied in an overbearing or abusive parent. She may see for the first time that her boss or even her clientele function as her masters. She becomes aware of her enslavement to the clock, relentless emails, texts, voicemails, and debt.
And so, in an act of desperation, she flees, not knowing where she is going. She leaves the church, never to return. She runs away from home. She walks out on the job without notice. When no one is looking, when the master turns his head, she gives him the slip and escapes the shackles and walls of civilization for good. She leaves because she is desperate and angry. She flees for the feral life of the fencerow, because she knows that to remain one more day in civilized society would kill her soul.