What Today Brings
“It’s a mystery to me we have a greed, with which we have agreed. You think you have to want more than you need, until you have it all you won’t be free. Society, you’re a crazy breed, hope you’re not lonely without me. Society, crazy and deep, hope you’re not lonely without me.” Eddie Vedder, Society
There is a mythical figure named Christopher McCandless, an educated young man who lived a lifetime of “marching to the beat of a different drummer,” a friend said. He was captain of his cross-country team and graduated with a double major, history and anthropology, from Emory University. He developed an idealistic and spiritual view of the world, encouraging his teammates to treat running as if they were, “running against the forces of darkness … all the evil in the world, all the hatred.” Jon Krakauer wrote a non-fiction book about Christopher called Into the Wild which was later turned into a movie directed by Sean Penn. The story was of a young man who wanted to live off the land, so he put a backpack on his back and headed to Alaska. His journey led him to The Stampede Trail, near Denali National Park, where he discovered an abandoned bus. It was there he attempted to stave off harsh weather and live off of what he was able to catch along with nuts, seeds and berries he picked.
Such a romantic notion to fling yourself into the wild, assuming you will be taken care of. In Christopher McCandless’s case, it proved a dangerous concoction, to be smart and adventurous coupled with a disagreement with American society, personal idealism and disappointing family dynamics. He naively assumed he could do without any of us.
Chris came from a privileged background but was damaged emotionally by divorce, half siblings and that requisite drama that goes along with 50 percent of our American population. But going to the extreme and carrying a hole in your heart trying to shun “everything evil in the world” is obviously not the answer.
To be a peaceful soul, living alongside evil is admittedly challenging. If you are very sensitive, it makes it all the harder to accept the division, judgement, social climbing and true darkness, such as cruelty to animals and bloody, senseless murders. It must have sounded appealing to adapt a different existence. This is what breeds cults and religious fanaticism, that hunger for something different. We know that route veers off course every time, but I suppose that longing for something pure comes from the same seed Christopher McCandless planted in his brain which grew into total isolation.
“Society, have mercy on me. I hope you’re not angry if I disagree. Society, crazy and deep, I hope you’re not lonely without me.”
Chris documented his days alone in the wild. For many months he thrived in the silence and beauty of the earth and wrote of the life he fashioned for himself, by himself. Unfortunately, there came a time he could no longer do it alone. On day 113, he posted a note on the abandoned bus, “Attention Possible Visitors. S.O.S. I need your help. I am injured, near death, and too weak to hike out alone, this is no joke. In the name of God, please remain to save me. I am out collecting berries close by and shall return this evening. Thank you, Chris McCandless.” He was found Sept. 6, 1992, by a hunter; the cause of death was starvation. His final journal entry was, “Day 107, Beautiful Blue Berries.” What I learn from stories like that of Chris and other fervent idealists is that we can’t do it alone. There is beauty in solitude, independence and rejection of darkness of spirit and action, but we need each other. We need each other to survive.