“I now walk into the wild”
Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild documented the tragic death of Christopher McCandless, who have become known as the infamous ranger of the great Alaskan north, aka “Alexander Supertramp”. Unlike other literary works, Into the Wild rings to me as a wake up call. Jon Krakauer exhibited McCandless as a character that protests the way our generation have evolved into; a generation that applauds “superficiality” to truth and simplicity. Let me just outline my personal reasons on why this book (or perhaps the movie) should be in one of your check lists:
1. Alaska is a no man’s land. From the peripheral it seems as an unknown habitation that is sculptured with grand landscapes and colored with free roaming wilderness. There is no place on earth that is able to allure us with natural exquisiteness as profoundly as Alaska. On a more personal note, seeing the great north has long been my burning desire for quite some time. I remember seeing those snow covered mountains at Anchorage for a stopover. I knew right away that it was powerful. So reading this book in a way made me look forward for my own Alaskan adventure.
2. We humans are born in the wild and are meant to live along side mother nature. The book ignites one’s reminiscences of childhood exploration. Remember those days when all you feel is the excitement to go out and play in the wild? You never know what will happen to you but all you wanted is to just head out! This is sort of like the real life version of Huckleberry Finn and his companion Tom Sawyer but without the the profound philosophical discourse of the human race. In other words, the book provides you with a great venue to depart from the mundane.
3. Some people associates adventure with danger and this perception has sparked a major controversy among readers of this book. But let me put this issue straight. Many people have condemned McCandless’ foot adventure as reckless and simply “stupid”. Every Alaskan backpackers understand the situation and prepare intensely before hitting the cold and remote trails. Alaskan have seen many tramps like McCandless throughout the years. Some survived and some stayed in Alaskan soils for eternity. But here’s the thing, McCandless did everything he could to prepare himself for the trip. He read several books on how to survive in the wild and would ask around for surviving tips whenever he could. Additionally, books on edible wild plants is always in his disposal. So, in terms of “lack of preparation” issue that can be completely scratched off. McCandless was more than prepared. The fatality of his death is convincingly caused by inaccurate information of wild herbs. Now, this leads me to the next point.
4. The audacity to leave behind the material world for nature is beyond comprehension; yet it is highly admirable. Only a few of us have the mental courage to pursue that type of journey in our lives; it is a voyage that requires you to sacrifice everything that you have grown accustom to, like family, friends, and everything that else that defines comfort. Critics of McCandless are those who are not able to face the truth. These are people that hides behind fear and are incapable of facing changes. At times people justify their their activities in order to hide their fears of reality. McCandless accepted his destiny and pursued it. What have those critics done? Have they forgotten that action speaks louder than words ?
5. While reading the book and later watching it in the big screen, I cannot help but to say to myself that perhaps deep inside all humans exist an innate instinct to reach for an alienated space. Throughout human history, appraisals are mostly given to individuals who possess mental and intellectual capacity or those who are able to drive the human generation into a new scientific breakthrough and social revolutions. But how about those individuals, like McCandless, who have physically and mentally pushed himself to be true and accept their innate nature? McCandless was a seeker. He wanted to seek the answer to the nature of the human race. The only difference is that he used himself as the subject of the experiment. Even though he didn’t quite make it in the end, he proved that “happiness is real only when shared”. Not a lot of people comprehend the power of that statement.
Despite the various criticisms, kudos should be given to the McCandless for finally embarking his ultimate journey, Jon Krakauer for investigating the truth of McCandless’ death, and Sean Penn for moving our hearts with his imaginations through the motion picture. The story of Christopher McCandless have inspired many people, even myself. But let me just close the discourse by pointing out to a specific NY Times article (link posted below) that was sent to me a few days ago. It was a piece about a guy who is traveling across the Americas with nothing but curiosity. This is a person who shares the same feeling as McCandless, disturbed by the materialism that surrounds us. I am not a hundred percent sure about the motive of this person, but it is just becoming more apparent that the influence of McCandless has incrementally spread.
The sad story of our generation is unfortunately true. I surely hope to encounter more of such character in my life time. If you cannot handle nature, you have no freedom. Hence, truth is slowly getting more remote.
Link to NYT article: