Sunday, September 30, 2007

the road less traveled

Recent discussion of "Into the Wild", the Sean Penn film of the true life and death story of Chris McCandless has stirred some thoughts that have been long left in the attic of my younger mind.

  For those caught unaware, this film, based on Jon Krakauer's novel of the same title, tells of the journey taken by a fiercly idealistic young man in the prime of life from the wealthy suburbs of D.C. to his death by starvation on a long abandoned bus in the wilds of Alaska.
  Two suggestions - 1) Read the book... 2)Find the last self portrait Chris took, emaciated, holding his death note and study his eyes and his smile (this is not that photo but one of him earlier at the bus)...

I don't have a copy of the photo - I hear it is in the September issue of Men's Journal - which I will get - but I do recall seeing it years ago, somewhere, a magazine perhaps, and it struck me to the core then, as recalling it does now.
note: Now I do have an image(see below) but it is not a full size image.

This young man and I had a lot in common at that age in life - clearly a mystery to anyone who has read some of my bile-like blog drivel. But to avoid self promotion in light of what I percieve as this kid's saintliness, for lack of a better word, I wont blather on about myself.

I wont spend many words, either, on those who call him an arrogant fool who got what he deserved, ending his life by walking into wilderness with no maps, a 10 pound bag of rice, a gun and some books. These people seem inexplicably trapped in some sort of shallow and sad version of pragmatism - that or just stupidity.

What I do want to say is that Chris, in complete contrast to the Grizzly man of more recent death-in-the-wild fame, stands out still, as he did when I first heard of him, as a heart-breaking yet awe-inspiring example of the beauty and tragedy of youthful idealism - a testament to the noble heart juxtaposed with the raw truth of nature.

Chris McCandless has become the stuff of folk-lore that should be celebrated. And while it is said the movie Penn made is only kind and glorifying of him, I see nothing wrong in that at all.

One of his last acts was to take a photograph of himself, standing near the bus under the high Alaskan sky, one hand holding his final note toward the camera lens, the other raised in a brave, beatific farewell. He is smiling in the photo, and there is no mistaking the look in his eyes: Chris McCandless was at peace, serene as a monk gone to God.

His note reads: I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God Bless All.

Original 1993 aritcle by Krakauer from Outside Magazine.
Men's Journal September 2007 aritcle.
interview with Sean Penn about the film


Anonymous said...

The picture doesn't show up.

Truth Is Stranger said...

it should now