profane but enlightened
Chris McCandless, a young adventurer, lived hard, fast and lamentably – died young! An enigmatic character, McCandless has been worshiped, vilified, con- demned or merely criticized for being out of his depth! Wikipedia informs, “Christopher Johnson McCandless (February 12, 1968 – August 1992) was an American hiker who adopted the alias Alexander Supertramp and ventured into the Alaskan wilderness in April 1992 with little food and equipment, hoping to live simply for a time in solitude. Almost four months later, McCandless’s remains were found, weighing only 67 pounds …,” at his campsite – old Fairbanks city bus #142 left as a shelter for hunters. The Alaskan Odyssey – along with his earlier explorations of mind, body and soul in brief two year period, are immortalized by Jon Krakauer in his book, “Into The Wild.” Who was Chris McCandless?
A reader suspects McCandless resented his father, and possibly, suffered a negative reaction to his parent’s exclusive drive for financial success. Is it a natural feeling by a son toward his parent or did it metastasize into a misanthrope’s view of society? Did McCandless reject money as evil, when he donated the money in his bank account to charity? Krakauer feels deeply for McCandless, and suspects, Chris did view money as evil – withering to the soul. It goes further, though, Krakauer sees not a reckless lack of prudent concern tramping into Alaska with few supplies, but rather a drive to test oneself to the maximum! In Krakauer’s view, McCandless tested his mettle as a human being other cultures would view as a rite of passage – or even a path to wholeness and true adulthood! The author had his own Alaskan adventure scaling a mountain peak there – Devil’s Thumb – at nearly same age as McCandless.
Krakauer firmly believes, McCandless intended to return. The Teklanika river obstructed our young adventurer’s path home with its high waters, who decided merely to wait it out. The decision to stay was then compounded by a simple error. The roots of Eskimo potato are edible, but its seeds are toxic, which proved key to our young subject’s demise. McCandless simply assumed Eskimo potato seeds were likewise edible! McCandless almost made it as Krakauer points out! Our subject can be criticized for his shortfall in edible botany, but not for a lack of spirit! It only takes an outing at the malls to rub elbows with other capitalistic pigs to be reminded of heartrending McCandless story.
Alexander Supertramp, the alter ego, was a conquering tramp whether it be by rubber or rail! Chris made his mystical declaration of freedom as follows: “Two years he walks the earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, ’cause ‘the West is the best.’ And now after two rambling years comes the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual pilgrimage. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the Great White North. No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.” Krakauer and Sean Penn discuss McCandless below.