Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Into the Wild...

April 27th, 1992
Greetings from Fairbanks! This is the last you shall hear from me Wayne. Arrived here 2 days ago. It was very difficult to catch rides in the Yukon Territory. But I finally got here.
Please return all mail I receive to the sender. It might be a very long time before I return South. If this adventure proves fatal and you don't ever hear from me again I want you to know you're a great man. I now walk into the wild. Alex.
Last Friday, I took some sabbatical time for myself and took in some movies. I excitedly looked up the latest Wes Anderson film, The Daarjeeling Limited, which I can say is a riveting flick for those Wes Anderson fans out there and a definite must-see for the fan of the journey film. You know the ones: character(s) seek to go out on a journey to find out something about themselves only to, through a series of mis-haps and mis-adventures, find out something much more revealing about the universe/God/family/etc.
When I realized that I would have to trek 45 min out of my way to catch this flick, I scanned the other offerings at the nearest theater. I spied a title I had also been interested in, a relatively new flick by Sean Penn based on John Krakauer's compelling book Into the Wild. The story is about a young idealistic college grad named Chris McCandless who abandons his life to live a life that matters. He gives $25,000.00 (all that's left in his savings) to Oxfam, abandons his car, burns all the money in his pockets, and drops off the grid to become a leather tramp, hitching, hiking, jumping trains, and paddling across the country and back. The young man, an avid fan of Jack London, Thoreau, and Tolstoy; ultimately realizes that his search to re-discover life leads him to live off the land in the wild of Alaska.
I caught Into the Wild first and was completely floored by its simple, beautiful, haunting way of re-telling this compelling story of the search for life outside of mainstream society. Throughout the entire film, I was captivated by McCandless' two-year journey that ends (spoiler alert) in his death in the wild of Alaska and how much of what McCandless was seeking calls to what I feel that I and so many others of my generation are seeking in their lives as well: a life that matters. Sadly, it is when McCandless separates himself away from all human relationships (a task he must do with some heart-wrenching side effects for those he separates from) that he finally sees, as he writes in his journal, that "Happiness only real when shared." I have to say that, though I loved Daarjeeling Lmtd., it is Into the Wild that continues to haunt me.
The amazing book by Krakauer uses a quote from Paul Shepherd to point out that the wilderness calls out to us as "an environment of revelation" where spiritual leaders throughout history have gone "not to escape but find reality." The danger of the wilderness is isolation. For McCandless, it was isolation from the very thing that would have probably saved his life: community and long lasting personal relationships. So often, we head into the wild to find ourselves, which I believe can be extremely cathartic and therapeutic. It is when we fail to leave ourselves a way out of that wilderness that will follow this experience that we can, as McCandless writes, "literally become trapped in the wild." I find so much of McCandless' physical journey mirroring my own spiritual journey. I find that I so want to head off into the wild for clarity and quiet, to prove to myself that I can survive the time alone. I also find that I physically am yearning to foray into the wild, away from organized religion and away from an institutional spirituality. I pray that I seek (and find) more support in my journey and that I may be better equipped when I take my journey in order that I may survive.
P.S. - GO SEE THIS MOVIE. Or, if you are more booky READ THIS BOOK. I promise it will change you and how you see the world around you.
"I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!"
note left by Christopher McCandless

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