Tag Archives: road

“Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer

IntoTheWild

This book has been on my list of books to read for quite a long time. I finally got around to it. For those who do not know the premise of the book, it is the true story of Chris McCandless, a young man who decided to journey into the wilderness of Alaska alone and ended up dying of starvation. It’s a powerful story and extremely well-written. I found it difficult to put down.

In the book, Krakauer uses journal entries, letters, photos, and interviews to piece together the events of Chris’ odyssey into the wild, which he undertook immediately upon graduating college and did not inform his friends or family about. He basically severed his ties to society and decided to live on the fringe. In a letter he wrote to Ron Franz, a person he met while traveling, he expresses his belief in the importance of living an adventurous life.

I’d like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. 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 mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The 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.

(pp. 56 – 57)

Throughout the book, Krakauer includes quotes from writers regarding experiences in the wilderness. One of these quotes really struck me.

Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his works. It not only offered an escape from society but also was an ideal stage for the Romantic individual to exercise the cult that he frequently made of his own soul. The solitude and total freedom of the wilderness created a perfect setting for either melancholy or exaltation.

Roderick Nash,
Wilderness and the American Mind

(p. 157)

I have always found the wilderness to be a powerful symbol for the dark, primordial realm of the subconscious mind. That, combined with the fact that much of America was wilderness for a long time, the symbol of wilderness has become part of the American collective consciousness. It is the wild, unexplored part of ourselves that always seems to lure us.

McCandless traveled around the United States for about two years before finally heading out into the Alaskan bush. There is a great journal entry that describes his feeling as he finally found his solitude in the wilderness.

Two years he walks the earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, ‘cause “the west is the best.” And now after two rambling years comes the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual revolution. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the great white north, no longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.

(p. 163)

For my entire life, I always believed that burning had to be the worst way to die, and while I still think that it is probably the worst, after reading the description of what happens to a person who starves to death, I believe that this is a close second.

Starvation is not a pleasant way to expire. In advanced stages of famine, as the body begins to consume itself, the victim suffers muscle pain, heart disturbances, loss of hair, dizziness, shortness of breath, extreme sensitivity to cold, physical and mental exhaustion. The skin becomes discolored. In the absence of key nutrients, a severe chemical imbalance develops in the brain, inducing convulsions and hallucinations. Some people who have been brought back from the edge of starvation, though, report that near the end the hunger vanishes, the terrible pain dissolves, and the suffering is replaced by a sublime euphoria, a sense of calm accompanied by transcendent mental clarity. It would be nice to think McCandless experienced a similar rapture.

(p. 198)

In my younger days, I took a lot of risks and had some pretty close calls. I suppose that is why I related to this book. I could see myself in Chris McCandless. I share his romantic idealism, the longing to live a full life, the reverence of nature, and the love of literature.

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Wraith: Issue #1

Wraith_01The other day I went to the comic store to pick up the latest issue of The X-Files comic, but alas, its release was delayed a week. Wanting to support the local store anyway, I perused the shelves looking for something of interest and spied the first issue of Wraith. I had read that comic aficionados were excited about this and I have to admit that I was intrigued by the cover, which hearkened back to the horror comics I read as a kid. I also found the license plate to be quite punny (NOS4A2 = Nosferatu). I asked the store owner what he knew about it. He told me he had not read it yet but planned to, since the writer was one of his favorites (Joe Hill also wrote Locke & Key). I decided to give it a shot.

I found this comic interesting and I think it has potential. The comic is based on the metaphor of the road, which represents psychological pathways. Be warned—it is a very dark road that is taken and this is definitely a comic for mature readers. The protagonist, Charlie Manx, recounts the grim story of his childhood to a frightened young girl who is his passenger on the road. He recounts how his pain, suffering, anger, and disillusion led him to seek escape from reality by speeding down roads, which symbolize the pathways to the darker regions of his psyche.

For a time, I went to sleep inside and learned to dream through my days. Not that it made me one lick happier. Every dream I dreamed—all those other places I’d never see, other women I’d never hold, other lives I wouldn’t live, other roads I’d never drive—was another bitter sip of poison.

Manx discovers that he has the power to transform his dark dreams into reality. It is almost like creative visualization with a macabre twist.

If you can dream a thing, then it has a kind of reality in your thoughts. And if you dream hard enough, and you have the right vehicle—a vehicle you really love, a part of yourself—you can slip right out of reality and into that other, better, imaginary world, where the only reality is the one you allow.

The Wraith is Manx’s vehicle for escape—a black, gothic, antique Rolls Royce which carries him along the highways that meander through the darker realms of his consciousness.

Although Manx is a sinister character, you cannot help but feel some empathy. He was abused, he suffered, and he reached his mental breaking point where he had no place to turn but into his own mind for escape. Under the right circumstances, any one of us could snap psychologically and barrel down the road in an attempt to escape. But the sad reality is escape is really just another illusion. There is no place in our minds, no matter how deep or dark, where we can completely escape from ourselves.

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