Throughout the history of man, numerous people have pondered the same question: what is the meaning of life? Although nearly all people are too afraid to even think about something as deep as this, others devote their entire lives searching for what their purpose or role on Earth really is. It is said that if one completes his or her quest, and truly figures out the meaning of their life, they will be in pure ecstasy, and that is something that every human being strives for. How, or if, they achieve that, is strictly up to them.
Human beings are an inquisitive species who like to solve mysteries and to explain the inexplicable. People want to know the “who, what and why’s”, and to make sense of it all. It is a trait that distinguishes humans from other animals. As a species, people are especially puzzled by the contradictory nature of life, that so much beauty and joy can coexist with so much pain and suffering. Whether one is young or old, rich or poor, everyone is looking for answers that will help reduce the pain and bring more passion and fulfillment into ones life.
This is where the factor of creating an individual reality can come into effect. In relation to religion, groups of people have been known to give up their most worldly possessions in search of utopia. One prime example of this would be the practicing of monasticism. Monasticism, a form of religious life, is usually conducted in a community under a common rule. In general, monasticism has played an important role in Buddhism, Jainism, Island, and Christianity. Practitioners of monasticism in ancient times included the vestal virgins of Rome, the Jewish Essenes, the Therapeutae of Egypt, and the Peruvian virgins of the sun.
Monastic life is bound by severe practices expressed typically in the vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience, called the evangelical counsels. Monasticism is traditionally of two kinds: the more usual form is known as the cenobite or monk, and is characterized by a completely communal style of life; the second kind, otherwise known as the solitary person, entails a hermit’s life of almost unbroken solitude, which is now a rare lifestyle. Chris McCandless, as well as many before him, somewhat mimicked the lifestyle of monasticism in different forms, each in search of peace within themselves.
In April 1992, Christopher Johnson McCandless hitchhiked to Alaska, walking into the vast wilderness. Chris McCandless had personal motivations that caused him to throw opportunity and promise by the wayside in hope of finding truth and inner tranquillity in nature. Despite having achieved more than most, his resentment towards society’s emptiness drove him to seek answers in a harsh Alaskan frontier. His individual spirit felt contained by societal standards, standards he despised. Chris was not crazy. Simply, he was a seeker. He wanted answers, as most humans do.
Most of us decide to either accept the ones we are given or live without knowing. Chris wanted none of this. His individuality has caused some to question his intentions. Some doubt his sanity. Christopher McCandless was perfectly sane, saner than most. He simply wanted to find his own conclusions and stop allowing others to lead his life. Which is a feeling many have, yet few act upon. His adventure cost him his life, but provided him with a newfound happiness he had never come to know. Chris was an intelligent young man, maybe too intelligent, one might say.
He was very captivated by the writings of Tolstoy, London, and Thoreau, all of who forsaken their lives to wander among the destitute, possibly causing Chris in search of a raw, transcendent experience. Throughout Chris’s life, he was always pushing himself to be the best that he could possibly be. In this sense, he had no boundaries. “Chris was fearless even when he was little. He didn’t think the odds applied to him. We were always trying to pull him back from the edge,” said Walt McCandless, Chris’s father (p. 109). There is no doubt that Chris McCandless was indeed a seeker and had an impractical fascination with the harsh side of nature.
After discovered dead in an abandoned bus, many people exclaimed that McCandless was a crazy man, but that wasn’t the case. Chris McCandless set foot into the bare woods of Alaska in search of something. His mentality was of one deeper than most males his age. Chris seemed fed-up with the way society looked him in the eye. He wanted to break free, and desired an independent life. One where he could roam free, come and go as he pleased, with no one to answer to. Chris’s venture off into the Alaskan woods was not his only attempt of escaping from the chains of society.
Through his college years, Chris had been known to take long road trips across the country, even into the barren desert, where he had even gotten lost. Chris left a remarkable impression on those he met. The image of McCandless is one of a nature-loving nomad who lived in campgrounds, hitched rides, hopped trains, and tested his will and endurance to survive in the wilderness of North America. In my eyes, all Chris McCandless was searching for was his independence. All he wanted was to see if he could make it on his own, without any limitations.
I feel that Chris McCandless finally found the answer to all his questions right before his death. One of his two notes plea for help, addressed to anyone who might come upon the camp while the hiker searched for food. The second note bids the world goodbye… ” (New York Times, September 1992. P. 98). . It was then that I believe he realized that he couldn’t survive on his own, and that he needed the help of others in order to live life to the fullest. When people are on the verge of a near-death experience, their whole outlook on life changes, usually for the better, and I believe that if Chris had made it out of those Alaskan woods, all his questions about life and what it means would have been answered.
There are many personal obstacles in life that people have to overcome. To overcome these obstacles is a great accomplishment. Although Chris McCandless didn’t survive his quest into the woods of Alaska, I still believe that he completed his goal of escaping from society, and finding what his true purpose on this planet is. Chris McCandless deserves much admiration, because he did what most people are too afraid to do; find themselves.