Into the Wild
This book has captured my interest the past couple weeks. I want to share some of my response to reading the book, my thoughts on how the wild can offer healing, and both good and bad escape from culture. I think Chris’s life is one our culture needs to contemplate, and I recommend watching the movie if you haven’t seen it yet.
A very short biopsy of the book: Jon Krakauer shares the story and his perspective of Chris McCandless, a recent college grad of Emory University, who upon graduating, donated his $26K dollars of savings and made his way out west. The story follows the struggles, and wanderings of Chris across some of the rarefied places in the United States, accumulating in intensity as Chris heads north for his last adventure in the great wild of Alaska, which would cost him his life. Taking in the story as a whole leaves the reader with a lot to contemplate.
Knowing a fraction of the full story from reading Into the Wild, and watching Sean Penn’s movie I knew there was more to Chris’s life than what was shared. I have read some articles online and through his sister Carrine McCandless web page discovered that most of that can be found in a book I haven’t read which is Into the Wild Truth, written by Carrine, which uncovers largely the abuse his parents doled out to him as a child. With this in mind, I see both a beauty and a brokenness driving Chris into the wild.
Assuming most of my readers of this article know a bit about Chris’s story or have seen the movie, I won’t review those details much more for now. If you don’t know them I recommend spending an hour and watching the movie Into the Wild.
Connecting with Nature as a Child
My connection with nature begins in upstate New York. It was here that I first can relate to the call the wild has on a young man or a person in general. Growing up in upstate New York, I was surrounded by beautiful landscapes, thick lush northern forests, placid lakes, little streams rolling through the earth, and under trees. I will never forget the glory of the fall season superior in it’s presentation of powerful color. I spent the early years of my life in New York, until I moved to the more rural Greeley, CO in my early teens.
Colorado however, was a door into the more untamed, undomesticated wild, that I would grow to love and would hear calling me through my teen years.
My thoughts on Undomesticated Wilderness
This undomesticated landscape like that of Colorado, with it’s arid plains, and high mountain desert landscape, gives one access to discover parts of their spirit and soul unlike the city streets and landscapes of suburban communities. I found myself often going on uncharted runs across the plains of nearby areas, or driving into the mountains with no plan other than a sense of wanderlust.
I found escape, healing, and freedom in the wild of Colorado, combing its trails and hiking paths. Sometimes just pulling over the side of the road and hiking up a mountainside, with or without trail.
What is beautiful in the wild, I believe reveals something that is beautiful inside each of us. Those of ys that pursue paths less traveled, experience the steep terrain, a depth of land and sky, a dramatic landscape has a voice that speaks without words, and these things give us meaning, reverberate our silent meditations and speak to us.
What I am finding in the pages of the book Into the Wild from the story of Chris or you can call him by his tramp name, ‘Alexander Supertramp’ is a person trying to find context and meaning in life on the road less traveled, which I think his journey can offer each of us, a pilgrims in life in our own way, something special. I also see in Chris an escape from society, and some of this I don’t think has the best conclusions, I am not fully sure all of what drove Chris to the wild yet, but as I continue reading about this young man, I imagine I will see more the pain that brought Chris out there. Chris died in the wilderness, though perhaps Chris was only a struck of luck away from returning to community and life with people but, because of the misfortunes in the wild never had the chance to complete the circle of going into the wild to find meaning, and entering back into society with new perspective and character.
Though I feel he understood what he needed to take away from his wilderness journey, at least I think it’s what we should take away from Chris’s life, with one of the many highlighted passages Chris made in the books he took with him into the wild, he highlighted, “And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is a genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness…” and noted this in his own pen, “HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.” This is the full circle; we must play out our relationship with people, though perhaps that context can best be played out in the wild.
Further Research and Reading
I’m planning on reading John Muir’s collection of writing and essays this summer and fall, for more perspective on the great wild that surrounds us. Though I find much to my enjoyment in city life, I find myself walking outdoors when given the chance brings me into communion with my higher power, and the farther I get from the city streets, the more whole I feel. Though I don’t think staying in the wild forever would be the best decision, I see there needs to be balance, and perhaps our society as a whole has lost that balance and connection with the great outdoors, and our more undomesticated selves. I think we need to get out and stay out for while.