I’ve just finished reading Jon Krakauer’s magnificant book Into the Wild.
The book vividly illuminates the true story of a young American, Christopher McCandless. Raised in a financially secure family and with a college education behind him, McCandless yearns to escape from the confines of a society that espouses values at odds with his own. He achieves his goal, in a quite spectacular manner, by donating all of his money to charity and divesting himself of all but essential possessions and then embarking on a marathon journey across the US, culminating in an ultimately fatal venture into the Alaskan wilderness.
It’s a fascinating story to read and is made all the more poignant as Krakauer draws parallels between his own life experiences and inner motivations with those of McCandless. Touching on concepts such as pilgrimage, transcendence and the constant quest for ‘the spiritual’, Into the Wild is a moving exploration of what makes us human. It is easy to identify with the protagonist’s feelings of restlessness and search for meaning and purpose; perhaps even for some of us the notion of living on the periphery and counterculturally appeals to our sense of the divine. After all, was it not Christ who was the quintessential outsider, to be found on the margins and perennially refusing to conform to cultural norms and expectations? And this he did, not for the sake of it, but because it reflected the very essence of God’s being. How gloriously liberating!
For those of us who want to explore this intriguing and thought-provoking story further, thankfully we won’t have to wait to long for another installment. Apparently, the Christopher Johnson McCandless Memorial Foundation is due to release a new book based on Christopher’s collection of hitherto unpublished pictures and journal entries. The book is entitled Back to the Wild and will be released, along with a DVD, in April 2011. Check out http://www.christophermccandless.info, or the dedicated Back to the Wild website at http://www.backtothewildbook.org/ for further information. This should be well worth a read!