Regarding the story of Chris McCandless as told in Into The Wild – I can relate to some degree and I think we all can probably relate a little bit. I think Krakauer says it best when he’s comparing Chris’s story to his own – “I suspect we had a similar intensity, a similar heedlessness, a similar agitation of the soul”. An agitation of the soul. This kid wanted more than the “successful life” of getting a good job and making some decent money. He escaped the American formula that most of us follow and that seems popular for some advice givers to disagree with – to graduate with a degree, get a good job, get married, have kids.
This story, for some reason, reminds me of the Springsteen song Born to Run. Chris needed to take off, experience life to it’s fullest, and take it all in like the guy and the girl in the song. Springsteen wrote Born to Run when he was 24 years old, the same age Chris was during his Alaskan adventure. But by the time Springsteen was in his late 30’s, when he played the song live, he would mention “When I wrote this song I thought I was writing about a guy and a girl who wanted to run and keep on running. But as I got older I asked myself ‘where were they running?’… I guess I realized that you could get out there and get away, but your own individual freedom ends up feeling pretty meaningless when it’s not connected to some sort of community or friends or the world outside. So, I guess that guy and that girl, they were out there looking for connection.”
Chris seemed to come to the same conclusion since one of the last things he wrote in his journal was
“Happiness only real when shared”
I think when we’re younger we have that deep “agitation of the soul” to figure out who we are what it all means – to decide what we care about and what we’re willing to fight for. Age seems to usually provide some clarity on things and now as I’m getting close to my late 30’s I seem to agree with this Tolstoy quote from Family Happiness that is referenced in the book
“… I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quaint secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness. And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and children, perhaps — what more can the heart of a man desire?”
And what’s kind of funny – is a lot of that follows the American formula.
A few other quotes I liked from the book – many are excerpts from other works that were referenced: