Celebrating a young man's life
(Editors note: Spoiler alert: Student columnist Anisha Adke describes Into the Wild, a book that many people have read and that was made into a movie many people have seen, but for those people who arent in the know, there are some major plot points discussed here.)
Last year, my English class read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. (If you have not read this book, I highly recommend doing so.) It was about a man, Chris McCandless, who shut down his life in society to find happiness in his inner peace. He burned all of his money, gave his savings to charity, packed up and went off. Yes, he did end up dying at age 24 whilst carrying out his lifelong ambition of roughing it in the Alaskan brush, but, nonetheless, he knew how to live. He knew that he could not handle society and its shortcomings, recognized his ambitions and embarked on a journey to find solitude.
The discussions our class had about McCandless disturbed me. Many wrote him off as a cocky, selfish lunatic. They seemed unperturbed by his death, saying that he didnt progress in society, anyway, that he lived selfishly and stupidly and impulsively. What they did not acknowledge was his complete and wholesome happiness, his dedication to contentment. We all can learn something from McCandless. Not many have the courage to abandon everything to do what truly makes them happy.
McCandless lived as one of very few people lives in unconditional happiness. So many people live within unhappy circumstances, he wrote to a friend, and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.
He knew the true meaning of his life and that it is the experiences, the memories, the great triumphant joy of living to the fullest extent in which real meaning is found.
Even though I knew what was going to happen at the end of Into the Wild, the chapter about his declining health and ultimate death brought tears to my eyes. Gone was a wild, free spirit, with more wisdom than many men of great age who spent their lives as CEOs. He truly understood Thoreaus meaning when speaking of success: if the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal, that is your success.
I was disturbed by our discussions in class because many wrote off a pure and happy man as a psychopath. Yes, he did leave his family without a word, burn his money and spend years in almost complete solitude. But everyones definition of happiness is different. Who are we to judge someones mental stability on their satisfaction with their lives?
No matter who you are, you will always have your critics. You cannot hold yourself down in fear of what others think and therefore compromise your happiness.
Some day I hope to reach the level of happiness that McCandless attained. I hope that people will applaud rather than call me crazy.
Anisha Adke is a senior at Lakeridge High School, and she writes a monthly column for the Review. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT