It’s been over a week since I watched Into The Wild, and the convolutions of my brain are still busy processing it. I was prepared to be consumed by a brilliant fire of jealousy, but in the end I was completely blindsided by the familiarity of the story. The parallels between our journeys, our desires to seek out new adventures, I realized that the differences between our individual experiences were only a matter of degree.
I am drawn to the story of Christopher McCandless not because it represents the extreme, but because it represents the familiar. As Krakauer states in his foreword, “…were it not for one or two seemingly insignificant blunders, he would have walked out of the woods in August 1992 as anonymously as he had walked into them in April.” Though our paths were different, I believe McCandless and I pursued them for similar reasons, with similar philosophies and a similarly intense passion for life.
When they showed Emile Hirsch traveling through the Pacific Northwest, tromping around Sahalie Falls and McKenzie Pass, I felt a slight tinge as my life twisted in and amongst this work of fictionalized non-fiction. These are all places that I myself have visited, and at times while watching the movie it felt as though I was witnessing my own journey through the landscape.
While I haven’t enjoyed nearly the hardscrabble life as McCandless, I do have friends scattered throughout the world who are living out similar experiences. From squatting at Camp 4 and sneaking half-eaten meals from tourists, to shoveling snow at the South Pole, to spending a sleepless month exploring Alaska, my friends make it clear that McCandless is not alone in giving his middle finger to conventional living.
I’m currently rereading Into The Wild, and I find that Krakauer paints the story in a very eerie, very chilling light. In the movie, Sean Penn has made a great effort to capture that passion for life, that mighty yawp of existence that all who knew McCandless say he possessed. To that end, what Eddie Vedder has done is magic in its purest form, and the soundtrack for Into The Wild resonates to the very marrow of my soul.