Have You Read?: Journey into a wild mind
An account of the short but dramatic life of Chris McCandless, Jon Krakauer tells readers on page 1 how the book will end ” with the discovery of the body of an unidentified hiker who starved to death, alone and cold, in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness. With that image in our minds, the author pulls away from the bus and begins to trace Chris’ long journey into the wilderness.
Instead of the standard path ” well-to-do young man succeeds after college ” he turned his back on his family and the comfortable life they provided. He sought a life of total independence, free of the consumer-driven society that surrounds us, hoping instead to literally live off the land. In the two years before his life ended in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness, McCandless crisscrossed the country, at one point passing through Tahoe: “Allowing his life to be formed by circumstance, he hitched to Lake Tahoe, hiked into the Sierra Nevada, and spent a week walking north on the Pacific Crest Trail before exiting the mountains and returning to the pavement.”
Did anyone here meet him? Buy him a cup of coffee? Try to offer hard-won advice on outdoor survival? Or perhaps a warm sweater? Many of the people he encountered on the road tried to do those things for him, and his stubborn refusal of most help or advice might have led to circumstances of his death.
Chris’ goal, which he happily shared with the people he met on the road, was to head out into the Alaskan bush on his own. For 16 weeks, he did survive on his own, hunting and foraging, before he accidentally poisoned himself by eating moldy seeds. Was he suicidal? Krakauer doesn’t think so, and I don’t, either. Instead, I see much of what he attempted to do as a celebration of the wilderness around us. His desire to connect with the beauty of nature, to live off the land and to opt out of the consumer-driven society seems fairly sane to me.
Overlook how Chris’ journey came to an end and focus instead on what he shared in a letter to a friend: “You are wrong if you think joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional thinking.” A perfectly sane message to the world.
” Jennifer Basye Sander, co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published,” offers Write by the Lake retreats at her Al Tahoe home.
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