Thursday, January 17, 2013

Myths, Adventure, and the Power of Story Telling

McCandless Inspired Graphic
Do you remember the story of Christopher McCandless? After reading a stockpile of transcendental sacred scripts he changed his name to “Alexander Supertramp” and wandered “into the wild” with a .22 caliber riffle and a 10lbs bag of rice (okay, the story is a little more loaded than that). Some see him as a visionary huntsman, an enlightened eternal seeker—there is a profound universal truth in his story that resonates with the human spirit—a lust for freedom and adventure, a need to disconnect from the civilized, the conformed, the consumer, and the culture, and a desire to test the limits of experience, the limits of the human spirit, and the limits of the human body when suspended from social and political influences. It’s mythical. It’s profound. It’s a compelling story with an even more compelling protagonist. Yet, others disagree and classify McCandless as an unprepared, naïve, adventure seeker who misjudged the wilds in a desperate attempt to idealistically connect with nature.

A Postcard From the Odyssey
McCandless grew up in a wealthy family. He was an excellent student and a star athlete. At the age of twenty-four McCandless gave his trust fund to charity and started a two year journey across the united states, working with missions along his route. After a stint in San Diego, California, he decided to head up to Alaska and explore the wilderness. While living amongst the land he hunted and gathered provisions, documented his survival in a journal, and questioned the greater metaphysical questions of life in the framework of exploration and personal reliance.

In September of 1992, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. McCandless died of starvation, which is a poetic tribute to his odyssey: he was hungry for adventure, and once that hunger was nourished, he died.

Whatever side of the McCandless fence you situate yourself, it’s pertinent to acknowledge both sides of that fence—and in doing so you acknowledge both sides of McCandless: the tragic hero and the seeking fool, a complete human with his own unique set of virtues, faults, dreams, struggles, and truths. His spirit is infectious and exudes not only in his writing but Jon Krakauer’s writing too, and I ask you to let his story move and inspire you. Just remember both sides: enlightened eternal seeker and twenty-something, naïve, adventure seeker. In that same spirit of two take two universal truths from his story: (one) the very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure, and  (two) to survive adventure we must always  be adequately prepared with knowledge and provisions. 

McCandless, self portrait taken at his Alaskan camp site sometime during the summer of 1992.
© Habit & Style, 2013

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