There’s this caricature of male wildness that looks like some event, some big pep rally type scenario that seeks a lot of attention from other people, usually women, and that’s considered wild. And you know what? It may be in some sense. But that may also be a guy over-compensating for the fact that he feels like a little boy most days.
My Dad has been a Baptist preacher for over fifty years. Unless he’s had some super-secretive-life-on-the-side, he hasn’t smoked, drank, cussed, chewed, cheated on my Mom, embezzled church funds, shot neighborhood cats, or any of that stuff that usually derails a preacher from being a preacher. In other words, he’s walked the line.
Nobody’s been there twisting his arm for seventy-something years. It is a life and way of living he chose a long time ago, and he’s stuck with it. People who know my Dad probably wouldn’t use the word wild to describe him. And that just shows they don’t know the man like I do. He hasn’t led a double-life by any means. But he has a rich interior life that doesn’t always match the exterior. He has honored his wild throughout his years in ways that have allowed him breaths of fresh air to clear his head, and realign that all-too vital inner compass.
My Dad has collected every Johnny Cash album ever produced, got ‘em all in his study, on vinyl, and he listens to them regularly. He spins Cash for many reasons, but one of them is that Cash is an outlaw, a rebel, that big-middle-finger-to-the-man kind of man. I believe my Dad has some of that wild in him, and listening to Johnny honors that, even eases that somewhat if you will, so my Dad doesn’t go all big-middle-finger-to-the-constant-whiner-at-church, which is probably a good thing in the long run for everyone involved.
My Dad met Johnny and June once before a concert, got pictures with them, they signed stuff for him, the whole shebang. In those pictures my Dad and Johnny sorta look like one another, which to some people might be surprising. But it’s not to me. Now that’s not the only way my Dad honors his wild, but it’s one way that has been visible to me all these years. It is specific to him, and that’s the point in all this. Find what honors your wild, and do it. If it’s big and loud, like riding motorcycles in Patagonia, ride on. But if it’s smaller and quieter, like making bluebird houses for the neighborhood, then do that. And if it’s coming in and listening to Johnny Cash for awhile after a good/hard morning of shaking hands and listening to aches and pains and sharing truths from the old Book and saying “amen” over it all, then do that, without apology. And if somebody doesn’t like whatever honoring your wild looks like, well, there’s a finger for that.