Into the Wild

Inside: Why is this a thing?; Yoga hippies; Temperament for freedom; Revelation and then an idea

I watched “Into the Wild”. I have mixed feelings about that whole thing.

There have been two stories in the news over the past year(?) or so about two young guys — separate incidents — who were fascinated with Christopher McCandless and the book “Into the Wild”. They both went off into the woods and died. Reading those stories is what prompted me to watch the movie. I have to say that there were moments where I was getting a Holden Caulfield vibe, which is not a compliment. Then there were moments when I thought that everyone should have the opportunity to be free and explore … without going broke.

Anyway, there are common themes in these stories in the news and “Into the Wild”.


Young, bright men who have “everything” and willfully reject material goods, resenting/rejecting parents, being disillusioned by the apparent mindless and vapid nature of society. Feeling like there’s got to be more to life than school, grades and then a 9 to 5 rut. Maybe mentally unable to pragmatically buckle down. Some emotional turmoil. Kerouac, Thoreau.

Pursuing ideals. The escapism of rejecting material escapism.

I don’t want to get all racial, but it bears saying that there’s a kind of “missing white girl” thing on here. Why did this guy’s story become such a thing. A book, a movie, multiple documentaries.

Young white guys, somewhat photogenic, get longitudinal coverage in major news outlets. Their families get a chance to tell their stories and the world mourns them and their potential for greatness when they die. If they died doing something unwise or stupid those traits of immaturity(?) are viewed fondly. That’s just the way it is. Real talk: I resent it a little bit. I resent the attention they get because of their looks and race and being part of the majority culture. Only because all of the lost young men should get the same respect and humanization. And that’s all I have to say about that.

ONLINE ARGUMENTS

People online have arguments about Into the Wild. Somewhere between “What an idiot. You come unprepared, you deserve to die.” and “What’s with all of the hate? Why can’t people recognize his achievements and everything he accomplished?” the truth lies.

The latest thing in the news is that They finally think They know what killed McCandless. He was very malnourished and some kind of potato seed plant he was eating has a paralyzing and poisoning effect on people when they are malnourished.

Can’t say that I care either way about the minutiae, but I’m fascinated by how much other people care.

ONE DEGREE OF SEPARATION

Strangely enough, I have come to know a few individuals who fit the profile, so to speak. They also have wandered away from school and a desk job and societal expectations in a search for some other … other. They escape and defy their parents’ expectations and wishes. They’re repelled by their parents’ values and — what.

We had many conversations about such things. Good conversations. Frustrating conversations. Condescending conversations (in both directions). Enlightening conversations.

They wander, go off into nature with questionable preparations feeling like the winds of fortune are at their back, ruminate, spend a lot of time in their own heads, and develop a philosophy with a fervor akin to an individually wrapped belief system. They’re young so they feel immortal and take unnecessary risks that, amazingly, usually pan out. They’re young, relatively clean-cut white guys so when they wander kind of off the grid and get into awkward, uncomfortable situations they get a free pass and even congenial assistance. Cops let them get away with things. People take them in. That’s the way it should be for everybody.

I think that people see them and relate. That could be my son or nephew. That could have been me years ago. That reminds me of my best friend who….

They’ll sometimes preach their philosophies the way young, smart people do. Like you, the jaded adult, are a lost soul or a tool and you should abandon all of your belongings and start wandering the Earth, too, because that’s where it’s at. Whatever “it” is.

In truth, I don’t think they’re entirely wrong. Even though sometimes you want to look them in the eye and say, “Grow up and take care of business!”, there is something very authentic about getting down to basics and wandering off and being in places and meeting people. Slowing down to really see the country and the world. Mad respect. And heck. Exploring and wandering are part of growing up.

On the other hand, it’s a game. Because they’re slumming, right. They choose to be faux homeless knowing that they have an escape hatch (even though they may resent the fact that they have an escape hatch) and they’re privileged individuals that our society values and identifies with.

But they have the time and no hard-set obligations or responsibilities so more power to them. It’s the time to explore. Go for it. I ain’t responsible for you so walk away from school and work and figure things out if that’s what you need to do. Make big moves. Blow up that comfort zone.

I think, though, that every intense drive like that is also a kind of pathos. It has a downside, I mean. Because all of that young people’s angst that makes you think that something fulfilling is “out there” is another hamster wheel. A lot of wanderers just aren’t happy being anywhere. They’re in their element when they’re on the move and the metaphorical scenery is rolling by.

That’s powerful mojo. It must be freeing. Tradeoffs, though.

McCandless starved to death. The Grizzly Man guy was eaten by a bear (along with his girlfriend). One of the young guys I mentioned seemed to have went into the Oregon wilds and committed suicide. The other — no one’s sure what happened to him. Last they heard from him he was delirious, possibly hallucinating, and was very, very lost.

But hey. Stuff happens. You’ve got to be smart and prepared but you can’t be stifled by fear. Look forward to the best and prepare for the worst.

SUICIDE BLOG

In my mind, this is another version of Into the Wild where “the Wild” = death.

There was a man in the news recently who committed suicide and blogged about it. Uh … not in that order, obviously, but he created a website that chronicled his life and his decision to kill himself.

He was healthy. I think his finances were okay. He said he wasn’t depressed. He just decided that 60(?) was enough and I guess he wanted to go out on his own terms. By all accounts he was very isolated, though. That’s not good for the human psyche.

The fact that he made a spectacle of his suicide and tried to leave a legacy says a lot. He may have been a good man. A good, quirky, outspoken man. I don’t know. I think it was a selfish act, though. Well, maybe not selfish but egotistical (said the guy writing a blog as if his opinions are worthy to be publicized to the world). A desperate, narcissistic act. Hey, everybody, come consume my self-inflicted death.

That was how he felt he could connect with people, though. Through self-annihilation. Sad.

Isolation is a killer. It’s a harbinger of a possibly deadly, numbing form of depression.

Suicide among baby boomers is statistically increasing. I’m thoroughly convinced that Homo Sapiens have a self destruct button and something in our post-modern, plasticized way of living is hitting that button, throwing that switch. Self-annihilation, family annihilation, stranger annihilation. We are ill.

I may be projecting but I think that most people are lonely. It doesn’t make any damn sense but I think it’s true. Being alone, loneliness, and isolation aren’t the same thing but they’re definitely interrelated. A lot of people are lonely.

I am. Always have been. But I spend most of my time alone so it makes some kind of sense. I recharge physically and mentally by being alone or through quality time. I think that a lot of people in relationships and marriages are lonely, too, though. That’s just tragic.

Suicide blog guy said, “We all die alone.”

That’s also a quote from a movie or book that I can’t remember. Interesting that he would identify with that so profoundly.

This constant smartphone and social network immersion? What’s that about? I’m guessing, addiction and fear of silence.

The trademarks of “first world” living. It spreads us thin as individuals and then stretches our connections to each other to a hair’s breadth.

Koyaanisqatsi.

I guess some of us run away into ourselves and some of us run away into the wilds, into the world. Some run towards comfort and materialism and some shun it and run away to simplicity and minimalism or isolation.

ADDENDUM: YOGA HIPPIES

These folks are on to something. I know four or five people who I affectionately call yoga hippies. They are wanderers and nomads.

I think they’re on to something. It wouldn’t work for me, I don’t think, but yeh. They’re on to something. They don’t stay still for long. Whenever they get a whiff of feeling comfortable — not even complacent, just comfortable — their internal alarms start going off and the urge to run, travel and explore compounds. It’s an undeniable force.

Some of them travel extensively. Some of them stay local but retreat away from the world. They’ll focus on yoga or meditation and occasionally retreat to a retreat of some kind.

It seems exciting. It wouldn’t suit me, though. It also seems exhausting and prohibitively expensive.

Then there’s the people factor. My yoga hippy friends make friends and connect with people quickly. They’re likable and lovable and charismatic. Then when they get to know a place they pull up physical, metaphorical, psychological and emotional stakes and leave to start a new chapter.

Their connections to people and places are detachable. No less meaningful, but like connecting and disconnecting a USB cable.

REVELATION

I think I get it now. I just had a brain blast and had to write this down before I forget.

Journeying, which doesn’t have to mean traveling abroad. But being somewhere and having people want to know your story and wanting to share their story.

That’s it.

Then I thought, hey. This is what photography — to pick a current fascination — is about to me. This is a means of interpersonal immersion. Saw this the other day. Perfect.

20130919-232912.jpg

The possibilities.

Music is another way, although it comes with a lot of overhead. Although … if I got my act together for the solo singer-songwriter format. Yeh, that would work.

ACTIONABLE IDEAS!

I wasn’t going to make this blog entry public (I wrote it about a month ago) but it led me — along with a meditation in yoga class — to a concrete idea.

And the realization that my “wild” is making stuff: photography, music, writing, etc.

Here’s one idea. I want to do a photo project of the Potomac River. From where the north and south forks (or ideally from the source) meet up and down to the Chesapeake Bay. Along the way there’s Harper’s Ferry, I don’t know what, there’s Great Falls, Scotts Run, Georgetown, the tidal basin, Alexandria and the National Harbor, Woodrow Wilson Bridge and so on.
Make a photo book or project out of that. Little music to accompany.

So … yeh. Good to see you, reader. Thanks for stopping by. No, really. It’s good to see you looking like you’ve picked up a scent and have a trail to follow. Next time you stop by bring a bottle of something. We’ll have a liquid potluck.

Journey on, you bunch o’ hippies. You beautiful, wild stallions of humanity. Stay free. But don’t be a stranger. You all are terribly missed by the people whose lives you touch when you’re gone, which is 99% of the time. Jerks.

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