Into The Wild - Caleb          

Into The Wild Essay

Chris’s story seems liquefied. It drips and slips through my fingers, challenging me to constantly change the way I contain its substance, for more drink. His narrative seems baffling, as many folk with a variety of backgrounds struggle for ownership.

Throughout the years, I’ve asked myself if Victor Turner’s Rites of Passage is most appropriate, as his idea that a permanent (liminal) state of transition occurs for some individuals, being unable to reincorporate back into society. Perhaps Carl Jung’s theory of archetypal collective truths imprinted on the psyche of all peoples can explain why Chris’s narrative splattered the minds of viewers, clearly bringing to awareness that his narrative was much bigger than a single man’s wanderings across the US. If not Carl Jung, then Joseph Campbell’s theory of the Heroes Journey. However in the end, definition still seems slippery.

Being unable to say anything new about Chris’s narrative, I would simply like to point out some loose associations that might be relevant.
Students, not professionals, seem to enjoy his story as much as anyone. In Greek culture, Paideia was term used for education. For me, education is a cultivation of the soul. Hence, those cultivating a sense of self, find Chris’s narrative particularly useful. However the basic narrative elements of the story can be traced back historically, providing an undeniable evolution of the quest to overcome powerlessness and voicelessness. The reason Chris’s story made viewers pause longer, is because it elucidated suffering in a way that made it approachable. To view something in a book or film, moves reality to symbolism, which is a much easier and oftentimes beneficial way to think of these matters. One could not watch the movie or read the book without the remembrance that it was tied to a real person, as opposed to fiction. Movies made from real life events can be more convoluted because it threatens to misrepresent actuality, decontextualizing and refurbishing events. On the other hand, if someone’s narrative is shared on a large scale, it can offer fruitful discussion, offering more insight into our own life. Put succinctly, Chris’s story caused discussion and was in many ways the postmodern version of many previous narratives of voyage and journey.

For many years I transitioned from Chris’s story to Jack Kerouac’s story and back. Both involved quests to live more authentic lives, while protesting the mainstream culture of compliance and conformity. Both of these narratives provoked a variety of emotional responses, ranging from sadness to fear and many others. From a personal perspective, I was astonished and disappointed with my own level of fear upon hearing other people’s fear of Chris’s story. I wanted to over identity with the story, merging mine and his. I finally had found justification and explanation for my life and the hurdles I seemed unable to overcome. I found a free pass and I took advantage. I then sought more adventure, which for me involved great recklessness and irresponsibility. In other words I developed a self-righteousness that sought to protest the very thing I believe Chris’s message was opposing.
Eventually I had to distance myself his story and come to terms with the boredom of daily living. While I hold his narrative dearly in my heart, I feel called during this season of my life to help others find ways to contain their own liquid quests.



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