Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Into the Wild: The Longing for a Transcendent Experience

Movie #2: Into the Wild

My interest in it:
Christopher McCandless took on the alias of Alexander Supertramp to leave behind a of formulated, static life of consumption. In an effort to reject all societal norms and live a spiritual life of solitude, he embraced the unforgiving wilderness of Alaska. McCandless, who died during this great adventure, has been described by some as a fearless hero and by others as an ignorant, stubborn kid.

As quoted by an Alaskan Park Ranger:
"When you consider McCandless from my perspective, you quickly see that what he did wasn't even particularly daring, just stupid, tragic, and inconsiderate."

I can't help but be enchanted by his utopian vision of life in the raw environment of Alaska. What do our worldly goods do for us, ultimately? Finding myself in the solitary confinement of the woods often makes me realize my worth again. I rediscover why I live each day. A sense of enlightenment rushes through me, as if I have never truly been alive before.

There is something true, something turbulent and reckless about the risk that McCandless took. He made the ultimate sacrifice of struggling for survival and trusting his instincts in a world beyond that of manipulation and competition.

Towards the end of his journey, McCandless ripped out a meaningful piece of literature from the memoir Education of a Wandering Man. On that page was an excerpt from a poem, "Wise Men in Their Bad Hours" by Robinson Jeffers.

It reads:
Death's a fierce meadowlark: but to die having made
Something more equal to centuries
Than muscle and bone, is mostly to shed weakness.
The mountains are dead stone, the people
Admire or hate their stature, their insolent quietness,
The mountains are not softened or troubled
And a few dead men's thoughts have the same temper.

This raw, unwavering outlook on life is something I yearn for sometimes. Why can we not see the simple fascinations that surround us? Do we tear our spirits apart in preparation for a futile existence?

I leave you with a quote from McCandless, words of a man longing for a tangible transcendent experience.

"So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and convervatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun."
–Alexander Supertramp


  1. I just picked up this book at the library tonight because of your rav movie review. I'm looking forward to reading it :)