Go Wild was written by Dr. John Ratey and Richard Manning. I’m a Manning fan, and I was hoping for a book with rhythms similar to the writing of Tom Brown, Richard Nelson, or Jay Griffiths — work rooted in a spiritual connection to the family of life. Our current path is a dead end. If Big Mama Nature decides to let two-legged animals have a future, the key to survival is returning to a path of reverence, respect, and balance, like our ancient African ancestors lived.
Be aware that Go Wild does not take you on a fascinating tour of wild cultures. The authors did not live with wild people, or interview any. The book will not thoroughly erase your cultural programming and make you wild and free, nor will it transform you into a wild hunter-gatherer, shaman, sorcerer, or medicine woman.
The book’s subtitle is “Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization.” But most of the major afflictions of civilization are not targeted — automobiles, television, cell phones, computers, education, wage slavery, materialism, submitting to masters. Despite this omission, the book does provide interesting discussions about a variety of lesser-known afflictions.
Go Wild is a self-help book that offers many suggestions for eating better and living better. Sugar is poison. Shun grains, including whole grains, and avoid all other foods rich in carbohydrates — bananas, honey, potatoes, organic fruit juice, and so on. It’s far healthier to get your calories from fats. Run regularly, outdoors, not on a treadmill. Sleep 8.5 hours every night. Avoid artificial light. Forge tribe-like bonds with your marathon-running buddies. Practice meditation to revive your mindfulness, contentment, and joy.
Go Wild is primarily a science book, based on a Cartesian mindset that perceives living beings to be amazingly complex biochemical machines. Two-legged animals raised in civilizations are severely damaged biochemical machines, and this book is an up-to-date shop manual for do-it-yourself backyard mechanics. It’s about tuning up your brain and body for maximum performance, so you’ll remain happy, sharp, and fit well beyond 100, maybe 200.
Readers are introduced to a parade of medical doctors, biologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, endocrinologists, paleoanthropologists, and other assorted researchers who discuss their big discoveries. Hot topics include oxytocin, vasopressin, cortisol, phytoncides, telomeres, neuroplasticity, neurogenesis, homeostasis, allostasis, dopamine, dyslipidemia, epigenics, and lipoproteins.
Folks who seriously follow some or all of the suggestions in this book will have a decent chance of experiencing genuine benefits. Being raised in civilization causes many injuries, some of which can be healed, and many that cannot. This book is likely to appeal to millions of pudgy, unhappy, poorly nourished, sleep deprived, stressed out, walking dead, well-educated professionals who are looking for ways to improve their health and wellbeing.
Ratey, John J. M.D., and Manning, Richard, Go Wild, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2014.