Sunday, March 09, 2008

The ups and downs of just doing it

We rented Into The Wild this week, neither of us had read the book but we had heard about Chris McCandless's story in the media back when it happened. It's a story that stirs up strong emotions in nearly everyone, although not universally the same ones. Some people feel angry because someone -- a young, intelligent person of great integrity who deserted many people who cared, as well as great potential in life -- has caused his own death through naivete, unpreparedness, or some would say stupidity. Others are filled with admiration and struck by the sheer nerve of a person who dared go to great lengths including the sacrifice of creature comforts to pursue his dreams, and unfortunately made the ultimate sacrifice.

This wiki entry outlines the basic story of both the book and the movie, as well as some of the cultural impact. The pic to the right shows the real McCandless in a shot he took of himself that was found later undeveloped in his camera. He is holding a farewell note to the world that he wrote when he knew that his death was certain.

Here is an excellent blog post on the movie and on Chris, written by an Alaskan, with some good comments.

I don't view him as either a hero or a fool. Young people can be very passionate about making their dreams come true, they can be fearless and tend to think they are immortal, or they are willing to die to prove a point. A person with such a strong drive can push themselves to the edge and often over it. (I once tried to kill myself because my mother was dating a man I didn't like and I wasn't about to let him think he was going to be my dad -- even for a minute!!) I would have rather died than give an inch -- but in my 50s I have become the person I then despised. One by one, dreams die. The big ones go first, then the little ones. My heart is broken but I keep breathing. I now want simplicity. I want life to be easy, I want to be sheltered and comfortable, warm and dry, and I want to have enough money to spend on good food and beers at the pub. I don't like pain. I hate mosquitoes. I don't like to be cold. I traveled enough growing up to where it is no longer appealing (I was a military kid), although I do want to visit the UK someday, and maybe Arizona so I can see where I was born. I have become that useless person who is taking up space and using resources without giving much back. At least that's the way my younger self would have viewed me.

Anyway, Chris's story is one that will get you thinking, and thinking is good exercise.

More good articles:
The Cult of Chris McCandless (Men's Journal)
Death of an Innocent (Outside magazine)

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