Henry James explores The Minds Beast in the Jungle
Henry James explores The Minds Beast in the Jungle in his 1903 novella The Beast in the Jungle. The wanting starts out innocently — awaiting the birthday, the new bicycle, Christmas morning; awaiting the school year to end or to begin. Soon, we are awaiting the big break, the great love, the day we find, finally something or someone to deliver us from the tedium of life-as-it-is, into some other and more dazzling realm of life-as-it-could-be, all the while vacating the only sanctuary from the storm of uncertainty raging outside the frosted windows of the here and now.
Henry James explores The Minds Beast in the Jungle as we go through life expecting the next moment to contain what this one does not. The mythic missing piece
It matters not at all whether we are holding our breath for a triumph or bracing for a tragedy. For as long as we are waiting, we are not living. If we are not careful enough with the momentum of our own minds, we can live out our days in this expectant near-life existence.
That is what Henry James (April 13, 1843–February 28, 1916) explores in his 1903 novella The Beast in the Jungle, the story of a man whose entire life, from his earliest memory, has been animated by “the sense of being kept for something rare and strange, possibly prodigious and terrible,” something fated “sooner or later to happen” and, in happening, to either destroy him or remake his life. He calls it “the thing,” imagines it as a “beast in the jungle” lying in wait for him, and spends his life lying in wait for it, withholding his participation in the very experiences that might have that transformative effect — leaping after some great dream, risking his life for some great cause, falling in love.
It is, of course, a dramatized caricature of our common curse — the treacherous “if only” mind that haunts all of us, in one way or another, to some degree or other, as we go through life expecting the next moment to contain what this one does not and, in granting us some mythic missing piece that forever keeps us from the warm glad feeling of enoughness, to render our lives worthy of having been lived.