January 19, 2009
Last week I boarded a Jet Blue flight from New York to Long Beach, CA. I carried with me a copy of the book Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer. It's been over a year since I watched the movie for the first time, and until now I have never read the book. If you have never read the book, do so now. I read it cover to cover on my flight.
This is not a story of a crazy, self indulgent greenhorn that wandered naively into the wild. No. On the surface, it is a story of a young man who walked through a world he intellectually despised. Under its thin skin this is really a story of a young man who is torn between his stubborn will to see good and evil through a black and white lens, and his blossoming soul that inspired so many who crossed his path.
Questions will emerge as you read. For example, have you ever felt nervous, yet euphoric, as long awaited plans unfold after months, even years, of preparation? Then, in a moment, you find yourself standing in a place where the dream you've flirted with is becoming a reality?
Chris McCandless, the "pilgrim" in the book, stood at the end of an Alaskan road. His dream was about to become a reality. He thanked the man who drove him to this point and who gave him a pair of boots from his truck. Then, after traveling thousands of miles, seeing with his own eyes much of the "great work God has done here in the American West", touching the souls of the many friends he made along his way, McCandless simply turned and walked into the wild, out of his dream, and into reality.
What kept me reading this book more than anything was the glimpse it afforded me into my own past. The non-conformist, anti-fraternity, anti-social philosophy McCandless held as a young adult was very familiar to me. I only wish I could've met him for a beer as he kayaked along the Colorado River while I traversed the Bright Angel trail under the towering cliffs of the Grand Canyon.
If you read this story it will beg you to answer many questions about your own life. Do you believe in the life you live? Do you live for, or merely with, the material trappings you so enjoy? Do you take your life for granted? Are its routines, its habits keeping you from embracing change? When you reach for something, something big, do you capture it? Or do you let it slip, slowly, from your grasp?
Some would say McCandless let his life slip recklessly from his grasp. But life is not of only flesh and bone. And with that I say he held firmly to his dream as he walked and remained, forever, into the wild.
Posted by Will at 9:19 PM