Simple living vs. SIMPLY living
Writing on the life of Chris McCandless and who he was.
When reality is spoken of, most likely the first thing thought of is what is “real” to someone. In this moment, but also beyond that. What does one hold dear to them? If you
were on an island what and who would you bring to survive? Every person worships something or someone. Whether that be money, relationships, religion or simply living. Chris McCandless was many things. He ventured into the unknown of life and he stepped out of the comfortableness of this society and culture. Many people try to understand who this boy was, in his twenties hitch hiking across the country, living where he could and not knowing who or what would provide for him. In answering who Chris McCandless really was, you have to go beyond cars, money, people and what the average human would consider as necessities, yet Chris left that all behind in search of more. Chris yearned for more knowledge, he was an admirer, brave, honest and he was life changing to the world around him.
Chris is an open book and at the same time he isn’t. It’s like when a person looks at the cover of a book, skims over it but doesn’t actually read it. That’s how so many have viewed Chris’s life; his decisions and desires. Someone who really wanted to search deeper was John Krakuer, who brought to light some truth behind the mystery of a boy who one day dropped every material item and travelled the world for something else. In this, Krakuer brought his writing of Into the Wild. In his writing, he brings the readers into a closer look by sharing from some of Chris’s personal journals and notes during his travels. With this, the readers and witnesses of his journey are able to see into his mind and heart.There’s way too wide of a spectrum to cover Chris's entire life, although you can tell who he was just alone in his actions, his personality and his passion. People think they have their whole lives figured out. Knowing their security of tomorrow and their future is a necessity. Chris hated every part of that routine and security. He shows this by claiming “I don’t want to know what time it is. I don’t want to know what day it is or where I am. None of that matters” (pg.7). People and society have created their own definition of what is really needed in life and what success looks like. The most money in the world, highest paying job and a degree in the job someone will have and be miserable with for the rest of their life, only because it will pay well. Chris desired none of that. While Chris was on the road, people thought what he did was insane. To him, he was gaining everything. If Chris had stayed home in his unstable household where his parents put on the act that they’re lives we’re perfect, he would have never touched the many lives he did or experience a life of actually living. He would have followed the motion of an effortless life focused on school, then marriage, then a job and then merely existing till death. It’s drastic, although no one really thinks about it. Chris did. Chris was brave. He did what everyone else is afraid of taking the steps to do. Chris is the human in everyone. That’s why so many connect to his story. Krakauer proves this in his own chapter of the book speaking of his own alaskan journeys similar to Chris’s. On Chris’s journey, he beautifully tells of his encounter with nature, his trials and loss, but overall, admiration for the newbound freedom he found to not be tied to anything or anyone. Krakauer connects to Chris in seeking this same beauty and boldly stating in his journal, “I am reborn. This is my dawn. Real life has just begun” (pg.167). This experience can’t be known until it is experienced. Chris’s life challenges, influences and empowers.
Chris wasn’t a nobody. He didn’t “run away” cause he wasn’t loved. Chris was well admired, also extremely intellectual and knew so much that he only wanted to know more. He wasn’t satisfied with the everyday things. Chris knew there had to be more to life than what this plastic material world has to offer. He saw the earth as this creation that was begging to be explored. Walt Whitman and Chris McCandless are surprisingly not the same person. Walt has a way of expressing what the human mind thinks but when the words just usually don’t come out, he grabs them and delicately places them into his writing. In Walt's poem, “Song of the Open Road”, he clearly puts across his mindset in the beginning and claims “Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, healthy free, the world before me, the long brown path before me leading wherever I choose” (1). Chris did leave for his journey right out of college, but had an idea in mind of his plans. That idea was simply to see what lies ahead of him. Chris was free. He thrived off of this sense of the unknown; in not having everything at his fingertips. It was a blessing to him while others might say a curse. Chris was rescued by this mentality of a greater knowledge. Walt touches on this, experiencing “Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, gently, but undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me. I inhale great draughts of space, the east and the west are mine, and the north and south are mine” (5). Chris appreciated nature not only as a getaway from the toxic world, but as his ally. He sought the escape but also inplace of human relationship, he instead looked to the sunrise to bring him joy. The rivers and streams that he bathed in. The animals he ran with and hunted as his meal. Him and nature he saw as one.
Human relationship. It’s in our nature. It’s how we were created. To interact and to love. Chris made more relationships on the road with random people who picked him up, invested in his life for a small moment and they were essential to his journey and his life. More relationships made than he would have had in the “normal” life. Chris met so many people, whether being with them just for a few hours or for days. One person who touched Chris greatly and was influenced and changed by Chris was Ron Franz. An old man who had been in the war, lost his wife and daughter in a car crash and was now living out in the desert by himself. Ron picked up Chris one day while he was on his way back to his campsite way out in the middle of the desert. Ron insisted Chris stay with him for a bit and soon they grew this bond like Grandfather and Grandson. Readers can feel for themselves the heartfelt bond in the letter that Chris left Ron. There’s the begging call to action for Ron to start living. To experience what Chris felt was the most important thing in life. Chris emphasizes “I’d like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt” (paragraph1). Chris shows his compassion and what he really believes Ron needs to do. This is Chris’s passion to embody freedom and not be tied down. This passion he wanted to share with the people he passed and in his journal never knowing the impact it would have on the world. Chris states to Ron, “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than the endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun” (paragraph1). Chris’s joy was so pure. He didn’t need the satisfaction of worldly pleasures but the pleasure the natural creation has to offer. Chris believed the opposite of human wiring that joy comes just from relationships. Chris implies to Ron “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 living” (paragraph2). Chris went against all society expectations and yet still shows love and compassion toward Ron by inviting him into a different setting of human experience. Chris still loved people. He wanted to encourage them, influence them and help them have a mind of their own, not belonging to the world.
Many who get to encounter Chris McCandless’s story are inspired, changed for life and moved through the heart and mind. While some others would say, this dude was insane! At some points, this claim does make sense. From Chris leaving a family who loved him, well at least his sister, Carine truly did. To Chris burning his money and leaving an behind an education that shaped him into a man of intellect to serve in a fulfilling job. He had a miraculous mind and his thoughts were profound. He could have gone beyond the average person in the world simply by continuing his path. When Chris knew he was dying from starvation and was so weak he could barely stand, he wrote in his journal, “HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED” (pg189). Ironically, Chris found in the end that humans were meant to be together, not alone. Not cut off from civilization. Maybe for a little bit to refocus. Although, that they’d come back with knowledge, with serenity and a longing for community. The heart does long for community. This is what Chris too lately noticed. Did Chris find what he wanted? Or was he even searching in the first place. Maybe he already had everything he needed.
The underlying question, who was Chris McCandless? It has to be asked to find out who everyone else is. To see what Chris believed in, what drove him to do what he did and looking at his whole journey, you see where the heart lies. Again, what does one hold dear to them? How is someone living if they were to die tomorrow? Yes, Chris did die alone. Yet his story was what filled hearts with a burning passion for more, for something else. Chris’s story is only the beginning of someone else's soul to awake. Then the next, and the one after that. To overcome the voice of doubt and just go.