As always, this is not a book report. Rather, it is a discussion about the major themes that emerged for me while reading “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. If you’ve read the book or identify with any of the themes below, please let me know what you think in the comment section.
If you’ve read “Into the Wild” or seen the movie, you more than likely find yourself in one of two camps; those with great respect and envy for Chris (Alex) or those who believe he was ill prepared and selfish. I saw the movie long before ever flipping a page and as the credits rolled I found myself filled with admiration for Chris and his sacrifices. When I finished the book, I found myself shifting more toward the other camp, but not fully committing. That’s where I stand today; somewhere in the middle.
Chris’ gospel is complicated. A rejection of the modern world and its luxuries is a hard pill for most to swallow. Deconstructing what it means to be a member of a family and building life on your own terms is not something most of us are willing to do. Yet, Chris did all of these things and he paid the ultimate price. Instead of focusing on how he died, I spend my energy focusing on how his message can be applied to my own life.
When I finished the movie for the first time, I shifted my energy from being solely focused on the accumulation of wealth and possessions to amassing experiences. To this day, I still fail in this regard, but Chris' example is never far from my mind. I also firmly believe this life is meant to be shared and the joy of human existence can be found in experiencing the world through someone else’s eyes. Chris’ lonely death provided that lesson, but so did the beauty he experienced traveling around the American west. I’ve hiked alone. I’ve driven across the country alone. I’ve lived alone. With each and every single experience, I wished someone was standing by my side. Those moments and the awe I experienced seemed too big for one person to digest. Finally, Chris taught me parents are imperfect creatures. They are filled with faults and shortcomings. At their core, they are human beings. More often than not, we exalt and force them on a false pedestal. As we do, we forget their humanity. As I have grown older, I have learned to be more forgiving to my parents. More often than not, they did the best they could for me and my brothers.
"Into the Wild" is one of those books I believe should be required reading. I buy the book for a different person every year during the holidays. I think the lessons that can be learned from Chris are profound. He is no hero. He is no God. His life is merely an example of the deep questions I believe we should all be asking ourselves. As I devoured the book, I began asking myself questions about life, luxury, family, love, and experiences. If Chris' goal was to force us to examine those subjects in our own lives, then his mission has been accomplished. All around this country are people who have followed in his footsteps. I too once dreamed of being just as a brave. Ultimately, the decision seemed too radical, but the applicability to my own life still applies. Change on a grand scale wasn't required for me. You may be different. If that is the case, promise me a few things: let people know where you are going and call your mother.
Be good to each other,