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"Into the Wild" and away from community

Having read Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild shortly after it appeared in paperback made me wonder how well the book would translate into a film. So I watched the movie last night with a positive report for you. The movie, while far from perfect, does aid in understanding Chris McCandless' foolish journey to his death. My comments, however, are more about McCandless than the movie or the book.

I sympathize with McCandless' urge to "find" himself in the wilderness, to lose the noise and baggage from his upbringing. That in itself is not a bad thing, one could argue it is a virtue of wilderness and a cogent reason for preserving such places. However, trying to understand your own identity and solving deep problems is best done in some form of community. Young Chris, much like Holden Caulfield, saw his life and his society as lacking authenticity and sought to avoid it and purge its influence by fleeing to the Alaskan wild. That is what killed him however. Had he tried to balance his need for isolation with some contact with a balanced community he might be alive today. This is easier said, I understand, but unless we create communities that are willing to help heal broken people we will only lose more people like him.

The film created a better voice for Chris, obviously since there was an actor, than Krakauer's book did. Still, both actually work for their respective medium. This reminds me of Grizzly Man too--a disaffected individual who thinks the answer to his problem lies in the isolating crucible of wilderness. If only that were so.


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