Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Illuminating McCandless

Chris McCandless and his trek into  unknown wilderness, a quest apparently inspired (according to the books and movies on his story) by a need to establish his skills and self-sufficiency, is a story which rings familiar for many people who do not follow his example. They understand they think his motivation. 

The focus on what prompted his journey could be still more precise. He did not put it this way but his mind did not fit his body, there was a continual sense of something at odds, which found some surcease in situations when he was alone. 

Most people feel this disconnect at some time. It is a common experience -- because nobody's mind fits their body. The mind is a common grid which is imposed on people, and part of the imposition is the feeling that it is YOUR mind, when it is not.  Did you make up all the words you use? Of course not, if you had, no one could understand you. You get synced into a previously existing system when you get educated, and although the syncing only works if you believe in your own individuality, in fact the grid you become part of is planet wide and serving purposes which are not necessarily to your personal benefit.

Just like a scratchy shirt label at the back of your neck, from a garment purchased 'off the rack' there is a sense of irritation which is in some people becomes so grave that they persist in looking for peace. This can come from various sources and only very rarely does an individual take the necessary first step for real peace.

That first step is getting a sense of the direction in which the problem lies.  Chris never got that focus; he headed into the unknown physical world, after his graduation from Emory University, and the change of scenery provided some balm, an effect though which he needed to renew. A change of scenery is actually a tried method of keeping the mechanical mind off balance and inspired at the same time. But Mccandless took what is a work trick, as the goal itself. 

McCandless felt that irritation of an ill-fitting mind more strongly than most. But he still was looking in the wrong direction.  He wound up lost and starving in the physical wilderness.  For whatever reasons he did not look inside himself to a possible wilderness there.  He could not question the viability and sources of his own verbal grid.

An trivial footnote to the McCandless story is that for a few years he was a few miles only, from a real work group.  At that time it was called Evoteck Theatre.  Such a brush with possible help is not ironic because most people never find a real path, and if, they do, they do not persevere. The odds were greatly against any hope for McCandless to resolve his unease.  Another writer put it this way: "Many are called, but few chosen..."

Everybody starts lost.  I have no idea why different people go in different directions. I am aware though, that failure or success is not a matter of individual initiative or cleverness. It is not a matter of individual anything.  Most never stumble upon a real way, they just forget the questions.

There remain a very few, few measured in terms of centuries of people, who persevere, and for whom, anything off the rack, is a kind of torture.


Green Gal said...

McCandless's need to experience the wilderness is not some crazy thing he decided would fix all his problems.

People throughout time have ventured into the wilderness to find that part of them that society hides--their true, primeval self. McCandless meant to return to civilization after he realized that "happiness is only real when shared." He learned things about himself out there, and that he realized that important concept when out there shows that the wilderness was the place he needed to explore to come to that conclusion.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason--broken shoulder, bad seeds, whatever theory you believe--he was unable to return. He very easily could have returned, but was one of the unlucky ones who didn't make it out. Perhaps his inability and later fame was meant to raise these questions about what our society does to us. He sure has made many people question their place in the world and how society has made them into someone they may not be.

Language is only a tool through which we interact with our communities. It doesn't mean society is imposing on us. Superficiality, prejudice, religion, and other things that society teaches us are what he was trying to avoid.

You may think he was wrong in his beliefs, or on the wrong path, but you have to agree that what he was doing was justified if only because he was trying to avoid becoming a mindless, societal byproduct. He needed to go out and find himself, and for him that meant the wilderness.

Margaret said...

Dear Green Gal, there is no argument hear against your ideas. They are accurate and fair. My use of McCandless was more of a
"type of seeker" --- no doubt his fate was an accident and sad and one must admire that guy's courage. I might not have made clear that this "I must do it myself, all by myself" is actually a characteristic of all the mystics who changed world history, and boy did Chris have this extemely rare quality in amazing abundance. Thank you so much for commenting.

Green Gal said...

I do have to say, that concept of the mind being a common grid is an interesting one, considering we are all made of the same physical elements and potential mental elements. It's who we become, what we take from life that makes us unique.