The myth of the wilderness is a narrative that develops the theme of man’s relationship to nature, and it discloses man’s attitude toward nature to be one that is bifurcated. Human beings identify with nature and seek to maintain communion with it; on the other hand, he desires to subjugate it. Still, the myth of the untouched nature focuses on the people’s preference to urban dwelling, hence separated from the reality of the forest. Those who actually live in the forest are faced with rich diversity that is mostly hidden far above or in the heavy cover of the ground vegetations where danger lurks. Thus, the relationship between humans and wilderness parallels other common binary opposition, such as society/nature, active/passive, masculine/feminine, predator/prey, and violator/victim. These oppositions clearly do not represent an equal relationship; rather, they suggest a loaded power dynamic with dangerous consequences.
The split between the civilized and instinctual self and the public versus private persona is part of the human condition; human psyche, the ego specifically, forms in response to other people. Thus, the definition of nature and what is natural are cultural constructs designed to meet a wide variety of largely unconscious needs. For the modern society, the “natural” is essentially a response to culture. As John Muir observes in the myth of wilderness, “Appreciation of wilderness begins in one corner of the planet and extends to the cities.” He advocates that spending time in nature is a suitable way of balancing the effects of civilized, socialized life. The theory presented indicates that Western loss of relationship to the unconscious and the instinctual self is as a result of one-sided concentrated, modern consciousness, developed in conjunction with advances in science, technology, and culture.
The “natural” is imagined, not realized. Assertions of what is natural, adapt or dominate, accept or control, are interpretations, collective fantasies that reflect a constellation of personal and cultural beliefs and value judgments. Although modern people may use the rhetoric of harmony to wax poetic about finding one’s “natural” place, the historical-cultural context is primarily the story about surmounting, not submitting to nature.