“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer

I wanted to read this account of Chris McCandless’ journey after posting this excerpt from the book that helped me keep things in perspective during a challenging time in my life. Undoubtedly, the sense of journey and wanderlust portrayed in this book are appealing to some degree. That attitude can get the best of a person, and in this case, lead to one’s death. Adventure and passion toward an ideal are admirable goals but there are cost associated with such a lifestyle. For me, a huge element of being a self-realized man is that I can take care of myself and those I care about. Also, being able to share my experiences with those I care about makes those experiences worth struggling through. I am a self-proclaimed introvert but I still enjoy the company of others (See “Quiet” to understand more).

  1. “No man ever followed his genius till it misled him. Though the result were bodily weakness, yet perhaps no one can say that the consequences were to be regretted, for these were a life in conformity to higher principles. If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal,– that is your success.” ~Henry David Thoreau
  2. “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mine, but in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.” ~Chris McCandless
  3. Unlike most of us, he was the sort of person who insisted on living out his beliefs.
  4. “With the gathering force of an essential thing realizing itself out of early ground, I faced in myself a passionate and tenacious longing– to put away thought forever, and all the trouble it brings, all but the nearest desire, direct and searching. To take the trail and not look back.” ~John Haines
  5. A trancelike state settles over your efforts; the climb becomes a clear-eyed dream. Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-today existence– the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes– all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose and by the seriousness of the task at hand. (See the idea of Flow in “The Organized Mind“).
  6. Two decades after the face I discovered that my rage was gone, and had been for years. It had been supplanted by a rueful sympathy and something not unlike affection. I came to understand that I had baffled and infuriated my father at least as much as he had baffled and infuriated me. I saw that I had been selfish and unbending and a giant pain in the ass. He’d build a bridge of privilege for me, and hand-paved trestle to the good life, and I repaid him by chopping it down and crapping on the wreckage.
  7. It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.
  8. At that stage of my youth, death remained as abstract a concept as non-Euclidean geometry or marriage. I didn’t yet appreciate its terrible finality or the havoc it could wreak on those who’d entrusted the deceased with their hearts. I was stirred by the dark mystery of mortality.
  9. “He was right in saying that only certain happiness in life is to live for others– I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A guiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor– such is my idea of happiness. And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and children, perhaps– what more can the heart of a man desire?” ~Chris McCandless
  10. A challenge in which a successful outcome is assured isn’t a challenge at all.
  11. “And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness… And this was most vexing of all,” he noted, “HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.” ~Chris McCandless
  12. “Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.” ~Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps

Into the Wild

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