Feat. The music of Eddie Vedder
“Happiness only real when shared”
This post contains SPOILERS!
“Ultimate freedom.” Is how Chris McCandless (aka, Alexander Supertramp) described his 2-year hitchhiking tour of the American West. He recorded his journey in a diary which was found beside his corpse in an abandoned school bus in wild Alaska in September,1992. He was just 24 years old. A college graduate. Lover of Tolstoy and Thoreau. A young guy who answered the call of the wild and paid the ultimate price. Does experience not come from making our own mistakes?
McCandless’s story became the book, Into The Wild (1996), by Jon Krakauer. The book became the 2007 film, starring Emile Hirsch, and directed by Sean Penn. It features gorgeous cinematography, enriching dialogue and characters, and soul-satisfying original music from grunge / folk rocker, Eddie Vedder (Featured below).
The climax of the film is an epiphany McCandless has, as he succumbs to starvation. Crippled and alone in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness, imagining his sister and his mother and father, he writes, “Happiness only real when shared.” He pens the words in his copy of Doctor Shivago on the same page where it reads, “And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness.” (Pasternak, 1957).
Upon inking the words, McCandless removes his glasses, as a flood of tears spew from his wide eyes and stream down his face. The realization strikes him like a diamond between the eyes. He misses his family. Does that mean it was a mistake to leave them behind?
Contrast McCandless’s final realization with another which he shares earlier in his journey. A quote borrowed from Primo Levi:
“…the sea’s only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. Now, I don’t know much about the sea, but I do know that that’s the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your own hands and your own head…”
Now I pose to you a challenge, which is this: According to McCandless, and the great authors on his reading list), to be happy, one must partake in the lives of others, and share experiences with them. But it is also important to feel strong and independent. To foster self-reliance. And true self-reliance only develops from journeying alone. Does it not? So the crux is this: How to balance these two forces. How do you become self-reliant, experienced, without distancing yourself from the people you love? Physically, emotionally. And is it possible to make your own mistakes without hurting them.
Soundtrack: “Guaranteed” by Eddie Vedder