Top positive review
Beautiful book for anyone that loves questions of an existential nature!
7 February 2017
“Youth is wasted on the Young!”
- The great GB Shaw opined thus. ‘Into The Wild’ is the tale of a young man on whom youth was wasted. Wasted but not thrown away.
Christopher Walt McCandless was a young man that went into the Alaskan wild, leaving his parents and siblings behind, donating all his savings, abandoning his car, possessions and even burning whatever little money he had in his wallet, thus shaking away the shackles of financial security. He went away from the human civilization not because he was a glum recluse or a misanthropist. He was just one of those innumerable youngsters who feel that the answers to the testing questions of Life can be found only far away from Life and not by being in it on a day-to-day basis.
With evidently little preparation but abundant confidence that is the trademark of Youth, Chris headed into the Alaskan wilderness determined to make a living ‘off the land’, by hunting and eating whatever he could gather there, far away from the nearest human being. Little would he have known that this would be his last venture away from his family, because his lifeless body was found in emaciated state, four months after he went in.
There are so many arguments already about whether Chris was right or wrong, wise or foolish and so on and hence I will cut them all out from my review. What stood out for me from this tale were a few things. Chris wasn’t impudent or headstrong. Ask any youngster about what his idea of a wildest adventure is and he will tell you about living untethered. Having had ideas of traveling across the country myself, alone in my bike, I could vouch for the forces that could have pushed Chris onwards. Add to that the ideals of authors like Henry David Thoreau and Jack London who happened to be the favorites of Chris, the impressionable young mind of McCandless had all the ingredients to leave on the wild seeking.
Of course, Chris had issues with his parents and their ways of life, as any normal teenager would. His father’s being bigamous aggravated things a lot too. But it didn’t make Chris a bitter person. As everyone who met Chris during his self-imposed exile would vouch for, Chris was an intelligent, amiable, ideal and hardworking young man. He wasn’t suicidal, because if he was, he could have simply jumped off a bridge or a cliff. He was just experimental about life in his own way and he wanted to simply relish the freedom of living ‘off the grid’. His notes and the concise journal entries during his last few days of life prove that he never went in there to simply die. As Jon proves beyond doubt, Chris lost his life to food-poisoning and starvation, having been cut off from his return to the safety of civilization by a flooded river.
Jon has done a beautiful job by not completely idolizing Chris. Jon presents the experiences of people who met Chris during his sojourn across North America and none of them have anything negative to tell about Chris. That was not just because he was dead, but because he was indeed good. Jon also shares his own personal experience of being stuck in a cold cliff during his own arrogant attempt to scale a peak, as a result of which he could relate with Chris easily.
This is a simple and beautiful book for anyone that loves questions of an existential nature. You may love Chris or hate him for the waste of a young life, but you cannot deny the fact that each and every one of us has a ‘Chris’ inside. Some of us have managed to smother ‘him’ by heaping our day-to-day responsibilities and concerns atop, but all of us have a Chris straining at the leash, wanting to run far, very far away from all this maddening crowd of life!