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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Wild At Heart by John Eldredge

Reviewed by Steve Sorensen
Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tenneesee, 2001; 223 pages, 12 chapters; indexed. Hardcover.
“For after years of living in a cage, a lion no longer even believes it is a lion… and a man no longer believes he is a man.”
When a man sets out for adventure, whether through hunting, sailing, mountain climbing, dog sledding, or any other traditionally masculine enterprise, the age-old “battle between the sexes” often rears its head. Many women simply don’t understand what makes a man tick — and even though men might know what winds their clocks, they often don’t know why. The result is that both men and women misunderstand men. Whether you’re a man or woman, this book offers insight into why men are the way they are, and assure us all that it’s not only good, but necessary.

Some observations are in order: First, this book is only indirectly about hunting in that it focuses on why men enjoy their traditional masculine pursuits. Second, it contains a clear and unapologetic Christian worldview. That doesn’t necessarily mean the author’s views strictly religious, nor is it an attempt to convert anyone. But it’s worth noting before you buy the book that it contains many references to biblical narratives, along with plenty of literary and motion picture allusions that make it easy to read. Third, this book is a significant publication in what today is called “the men’s movement.” Some people ridicule and criticize that, but a person doesn’t have to wholly subscribe to something in order to see the value in it. If you can accept that men and women are created for different purposes, then it is obvious that they have different needs and interests, and consequently participate in life in different ways. That should be no threat to any man or woman, whether they agree with the author or not.

The main point in Wild at Heart is that men need (1) a battle to fight, (2) an adventure to live, and (3) a beauty to win. These three endeavors answer the basic question the author believes every man has: What is a man for? Sadly, the man of the 21st century is taught that he shouldn’t fight, that adventure is risky, and that women have little or no need of him. Women are not forgotten by the author; women yearn to be fought for, need an adventure to share, and desire to have a beauty to unveil. Men and women are equal but different, and they complement one another.

Eldredge teaches that every boy is called to become a man, and that a boyish heart must continue to live within the man. This is important, although it is criticized as immature in today’s American society. But perhaps the best account of what is wrong with contemporary man is found in the author’s portrait of a lion in a zoo, a proud and fierce animal which, in the confines of a cage, has lost its purpose. The author says, “For after years of living in a cage, a lion no longer even believes it is a lion… and a man no longer believes he is a man.”

Eldredge says that men must relearn what it means to be alive and true to their inner selves, including the individual’s right relationship to the woman in his life. This book will do some good toward those ends. It will also help the hunter to understand his passion for the hunt and its proper place in his life. It's worth reading, and from, it's less than $15 -- a small price for what it teaches you about yourself.