Into the wild is a difficult film to watch as a parent and a child. For a child of the eighties when career goals were key and following the family credo was crucial, Christopher McCandless and his travels into the wild seem like a fool’s errand and cautionary tale rolled into one. For the parent of a millennial, the fear always exists that Christopher’s romantic notions of a cashless lifestyle, living like a nomad and purely subsistence living may lead impressionable minds astray.
And yet, at the back of one’s mind is the niggling doubt that he may well have torn through the myth of human life and sought it’s core. Life is about experience and understanding oneself through it. His staunch belief that careers are a 20th century invention notwithstanding, Christopher was a prime candidate for American style success. Engaging, fun to be with, turning strangers into family, he is like the character of Gerda in the Grimm fairytale, The Snow Queen. Somehow adversity turns into opportunity for her and she finally finds the love of her life. Christopher seems to be seeking that kind of fairytale ending too. There are many demons in his life that he has to slay and they all seem to stem from his father’s second life, complete with another wife and child. And yet he has to acknowledge that he is his father’s son in spirit too, since he has the same capabilities and intelligence and fire in his belly to get after more than what life seemingly has to offer.
For most of us nature or the wild does not exist, since it was torn down to make way for the house we live in. We don’t know much about habitats where many organisms share the same space, resources and co-exist and sustain each other. We do of course follow the law of survival of the fittest when it comes to employment, though. And yet, the Darwinian theory is also about change, of self and environment and how that works both ways. We change the environment and it changes us.
For Christopher, the wild was the home where he hoped to truly come into his own, find that blissful contentment that his urban life had driven him to seek. He hoped the sojourn in the wild would open his mind and heart and heal the ache inside and renew him. Imagine his chagrin, when he finds that even the wild is about timeliness, the daily cycles of light, dark, feeding, finding palatable water and trying to stay warm, dry, clean, healthy. Finally, most ironic of all is his longing for his own kind whom he has pretty much shunned by his act of walking into the wilds of Alaska.
To imagine that changing the location will purify the soul is not a far fetched idea to me. After all, I’m an Indian who has been on the pilgrimage circuit. But, it won’t. However, travel is a great teacher and something which we all can and should do within reasonable limits. You have to respect the terrain you visit and make sensible choices. Follow the locals and don’t create any trouble for them and yourself. And lastly stay connected to people who care to know where you are.
By the end of his short, eventful life, Christopher was seeking to reach out to the family he left behind. Perhaps, he realized that the bliss he sought would be found in the home he’d left behind.
Note to reader: this review is dedicated to urban nomads, people who live in mini homes, Eco friendly lifestyles and subsistence farming.