Into The Wild - Lua Tomarelli-Lu          

Into The Wild Essay

Into The Wild Essay

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of god that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” (Marianne Williamson) Upon re-reading this passage which had been a favorite of mine for many years, I realized how Chris McCandless is one of the only people I know to have lived true to this quote. He didn’t deny himself his true potential, and he didn’t fear the distance that he could go, that distance which many people ignore for the sake of comfort. He also encouraged others such as Ronald Franz, an eighty year old man, who later moved into a GMC Duravan and set his life up in various campgrounds. The publishing of this book helped spread his story to the farthest parts of the world, “unconsciously giving other permission” to live the adventure and separate themselves from a materialistic society. Chris McCandless story helped me see society’s hypocrisy, the transformation of many people, and how my potential is only limited because I allow it to be.

Society from the very moment we come into the world, shoves certain ideas/criteria that they say should be our standards. This “American Dream” of working hard to earn money because money is the key to happiness, or that the man that owns much as lived a fulfilling life. Dave Korn, a man that was heavily influenced by Chris decided that after college that he too would venture the Stampede Trail and see the Fairbanks Bus where Chris resided. Dave says that those that truly understand Chris’s ambition and are inspired are people that this stir inside of them that tells them that they need to be “grasping life, embracing our spirit of adventure, freedom, living in the most full, deep way we are humanely capable of-the things which we consider McCandless to embody” (Korn pt4). From his essay, I can see how he has taken Chris’s message to heart, and lives the words rather than just preach it. There are many that condemn him to his death, stating how stupid he was. This includes Gordon Samel and Ken Thompson who discovered Chris’s body. Samel says that Chris would “have to be pretty stupid” (177) to not know some basic things such as the difference between caribou and a moose. That’s how they knew that “he wasn’t no Alaskan”, and “it was obvious that the animal was caribou” (177). However it turns out the joke's on them, upon a close examination of the animal, it was really a moose. Many also say that he was just one of many that were seeking adventure without being prepared. The fact that people label him as “stupid”, “ignorant” or “incompetent”, it can be seen as the majority of those people are scared of the truth, that he waman searching for important and a meaning to his life. “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 conservatism” (57). Society views these people to be role models while other such as Chris are labeled as “reckless”. This shows that society criticises those that refuse to be molded into their strict criteria. “I’m sure there are plenty of other Alaskans who had a lot in common…..which is maybe why they’re so hard on him. Maybe McCandless reminds them a little too much of their former selves” (186). They use his death as an excuse to hate him, that despite his efforts, in the end he achieved nothing.

Despite how society uses the fact that Chris died as an excuse to teach that his actions are to be discouraged, his story has reached far and transformed many lives. The website dedicated to Chris McCandless shows essays dedicated to how they view his life and how they are affected. Some have followed his example, or gone to pay respects to the bus where he spent his last moments. One student affected, Jessica Robbins speaks the truth, stating “You can sit for hours and ponder the meaning of life… you’ll never truly understand the beauty of life until you experience it for yourself, until you immerse yourself in it” (Jessica Robbins). She continues with talking about how she was fascinated with Chris despite her young age, he didn’t accomplish something that most of us would celebrate, he just “traveled to and died in Alaska” (Jessica Robbins). Despite critics, numerous people are inspired to leave their daily lives and live the adventure. They understand that “McCandless went into the wilderness not primarily to ponder nature or the world at large, but rather, to explore the inner country of his own soul” (183). I believe that is sometimes an unconscious desire in everyone, it’s just that people misunderstand how to find it, or that they are afraid to travel that unknown. In a letter, Chris says that “you are wrong if you think joy emanates only or principally from human relationships… we just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living” (57). Civilization has been programmed to live in an organized manner, and to breach away from it ensures unhappiness. Chris proves this to be false, and in doing so has encouraged others to ignore those standards. We forget that the elements that civilization grew from wasn’t from our own power, that these things were here long before we existed. Therefore we should give respect back to the land. It’s people like Chris, and those that follow his legacy that will help make the world more peaceful and beautiful.

I’m positive that there are many that wish to “escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations” (Wallace Stegner, The American West As Living Space) yet they choose to limit themselves by accepting the materialist comforts that money can give them, despite how that can’t buy happiness. I realized after reading this book that I also want to have “the raw throb of existence” (22) that comes with escaping from society and it’s oppressing propaganda. The only things stopping me is myself. The fears of being alone in the unknown stirs some fear in the darkest corners of our mind. Our imagination of the worst, or what society puts in our heads frightens us. “...Assent, and you are sane; demur, you’re a straightway dangerous, and handled with a chain” (Emily Dickinson). This idea that if you wander from the straight path that is expected to be followed, you are different, “incompetent” and dangerous to society. I’m at that age where the next decision is possibly the one that might form the rest of my life. The pressure of college, finding a job and being that person that people see me being. Many times I have disappointed or surprised my family, many times I have also allowed teachings to be shoved down my throat. Chris says that “It is the experiences, the memories, the great triumphant joy of living to the fullest extent in which real meaning is found” (37). That’s a tempting proposition for anyone that is striving for their place in the world. in Rebecca LaMarche’s essay, she touches upon the hierarchy of the five basic human needs. Chris “demonstrates the Tolstoyan values, such as simplicity, truth and pure goodness” also the need for “Maslow’s five basic needs, such as the physiological and self-actualization” (Rebecca LaMarche). I can connect to Chris through his need of self-actualization and his want to explore physiologically. With the members of society surrounding young, impressionable people like me, we are constantly victims of propaganda and expectations of the older generation. “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself” (Emerson, Self Reliance). One would think that one is always in control of their life, but decisions are influenced by surrounding people and I desire to be in control of my future. The separation that Chris sought from people is something I believe that all young adults need in their life. This separation helps them seek their own growth, and the development of their spiritual self.

In conclusion, the story of Chris McCandless has led to a movement of young individuals becoming aware of society’s hypocrisy and their potential. The world is much bigger than the civilization that shoves materialistic propaganda down one’s throat. Despite society’s view and the criticism, loyal idealism and self-searching should be encouraged. This chance for learning outside of a contained environment is more valuable in the large aspect of one’s life. Society can only take someone so far, there’s point in time when that person must grow on their own and develop their individuality. To deny their growth, their idealism and their potential is a tragedy.



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