As you might remember from my movie review of Into the Wild, I loved the movie. There were so many themes from the movie that stayed with me for days after seeing it. But as with most books made into movies, the movie was a mere surface scratch compared to the information contained in the book.
Jon Krakauer did an amazing job at compiling the fascinating story of Chris McCandless. Krakauer showed a very sane and human side to a young man that people were quick to call reckless, insane or just plain ignorant. Yes, having the idea to live in the wild of Alaska does set you apart from most, but as Krakauer's defends, by no means does that make you insane. To be quite honest, I couldn't help but take my psych background for a spin and look for a little pathology influencing this young man. It is one thing to be sick of societies norms, such as McCandless was, but it is an entirely different thing to cut off society completely. So yes, I too thought that Chris was "not all there" for making the decision that he did, which eventually cost him his life. However, after reading the book I am not so quick to judge.
Here is a quote from Krakauer about how he can identify with McCandless's urge to live a different life:
"It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something bad enough, it is your God-given right to have it."
The great thing that Krakauer helped me understand is that some people need to have the sort of life that challenges them daily. For some people it is not enough to live the American dream. In order to find meaning and worth in life, some find it essential to tango on the edge of life and death; each time they defeat death they feel more alive. Krakauer supports this hypothesis by giving numerous examples of people that defied social norms and went into the wild. Sometimes the stories are examples of being ill prepared and sometimes they inspired me to think about how I would like to live my own life a little differently. Granted, I can say with quite a bit of certainty that I would not want to live in those extreme situations but I would like to slow down, listen a little more carefully, enjoy things I already have as they are at this moment instead of worrying about what I want. Even though Chris did take a journey that cost him his life, he lived with a vigor that very few people reach, he had a dream and he lived it.
"Unlike most of us, he was he sort of person who insisted on living out his beliefs" -Quote from a woman that spoke with Chris as he was en route to Alaska.
Even though he did follow his dream, he left a lot of people heart broken when he passed away. Namely, his family was obviously distraught at the loss of Chris; but the book points out that they were not the only ones to be affected by his death. Before reaching Alaska, Chris traveled all across the United States, meeting people and sharing his story with all he met. Krakauer interviews many of the people that shared a moment in time with Chris and all seemed to be profoundly touched by his presence. My take from the book is that each person that Chris met along the way benefited from this young boy's dream; however, I also think that at the end of his life these people taught Chris just how important human relationships are.