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November 08, 2007

Comments

John Cain

You should talk to some of my Alaskan friends. They basically refer to him as "The Idiot Who Went Into the Woods and Died".

Minipundit

Pretty much.

Corey

I'll agree that there wasn't really anything noble about what McCandless did; being a fuzzy-headed twenty-something who has fights with his family is par for the post-adolescent course. And his personal philosophy was a mix of bad Romanticism and self-reliance gleaned from misreadings of Thoreau (who left Walden on weekends to eat with his mother) and Moby Dick, unironically holding up Ahab as a figure of strength while failing to realize that it was Ahab's obsession that led to his death. "Alexander Supertramp" apparently didn't pay attention in English class.

That said, I tend to agree with Krakauer's argument that McCandless wasn't stupid or unaware of the potential danger. He wrote friends saying that he might not return (understanding that Alaska might prove fatal). And I'll also go along with Krakauer's evaluation of certain type of daring free-spirit (not ever wanting to climb mountains or live in the wilderness myself).

Greg Kuperberg

Not only is McCandless not noble, he's not even interesting. Fools like him are a dime a dozen. Most of them don't get themselves killed, but they do waste other people's time and money, and even compromise other people's safety, when they casually put themselves at risk. Maybe there is also a tragic side, to the extent that McCandless was consciously suicidal. But that's not interesting either; a lot of people are suicidal.

For his part, Krakauer freely conflates stupid with interesting. That is a problem with a lot of his stories.

mike

"Fools like him are a dime a dozen."

He graduated from the top of his class at Emory, that would put him somewhere in the top 5% in intelligence.

I suspect you are suffering from Courage envy.

Minipundit

mike - Explain to me what's courageous about killing oneself through incompetence.

Darla

I think the guy was mentally ill - possibly suffering from schizophrenia. I think there's a fine line from suffering from mental distress (re: parents, society, whatever; and lots of people suffer from these things, btw, who don't kill themselves needlessly) and full-on mental illness, but I think the warning signs were definitely there (burning his ID, changing his name, inability to ask for help [hello! how hard would it have been to build a raging fire beside his bus???). So, besides being an over privileged white boy, I really wish someone would have gotten him a psychiatric evaluation - from what is written, it sounds like this stuff came on in high school for him.

mike

Skipping the 9-5 job security path and choosing one of self-discovery.
That, to me, takes courage.
If his choices make you angry, you're suffering from Courage Envy....but don't worry, it seems every Alaskan is suffering from the same.

Minipundit

If McCandless wanted to skip the "9-5 job security path", perhaps he could have done something constructive for humanity. Like joining the Peace Corps, or the foreign service. Instead, he managed to get himself killed 20 miles from a highway. Courage only means something if it's for a decent cause. Not being an imbecile helps.

Ian Cooper

Look, I skipped the 9-5 job security path for a journey of self-discovery too. It doesn't take courage - all it takes is the desire and the will to carry it through. As for intellect, it's all well and good to be in the top 5%, but if you don't apply that intellect the result often makes you look a fool. Now Chris McCandless may have been a genius for all I know, but if he went into the Alaskan wilderness without a map, without adequate food and without learning how to adequately store the game that he caught, he was acting like a frigging idiot. All the intelligence in the world won't help you unless you apply it, and McCandless actively CHOSE NOT TO.

Justine Warhurst

Anyone who can't see what Chris's real journey was for or about is just demonstrating worryingly little imagination. It's not about going to Alaska and getting poisoned. It's about emotional and spiritual survival, it's about being true to your own nature, it's about being in an environment that is killing you bit by bit and needing to escape that in order to endure. It's about love and punishment and forgiveness, it's about bullying and fighting back the only way you know how, it's about ambition and it's costs, and hearts closing (as Chris' did) and opening (as his parents' did). It's about the souls longing for pure interaction with nature away from the mess we humans make. This is a film for people who haven't found a way to survive in society as themselves, and who long for the sense of acceptance and freedom, where they are at liberty to be who they are, as we all should be. If you have never experienced being bullied or simply not being allowed to be yourself, then you might have a tendency to bully yourself, or you are just extremely fortunate, that you have had enough love and acceptance, in your life to not feel this sense of being outcast. Maybe life hasn't challenged you in the way it did Chris in the sense that you are similar enough to your family and work collegues, and share enough of the same views to more or less tick along okay. If you don't get it, you may indeed end up having children who teach you such lessons in their own ways, i hope for your sakes not as extremely as Chris. I imagine that Chris' parents do understand what he did and why and i'm sure they dramatically changed from it. You seem to share the same view of the situation as the parents did at the beginning, before their loss made them dig deeper. Now i would imagine that they share Sean Penn's view. This is a beautiful story of indeed a true but sadly tragic hero. He was courageous, not because he went into the Alaskan outback and try to live off the land , nor because of any of his external physical decisions he made about his living situation. He was a hero because he stuck to his convictions. Instead of being miserable and staying in a life that made him unhappy, he followed his own truth, and indeed it was his salvation. The trouble is, is that what saved him, then went on to kill him. .Such is life. We are meant to grow and change as we live through the lessons it presents, to adapt to our ever changing environment. . Too much of anything is never good, but his heart remained too closed to people, and with an ambition of steel he carried on against all of life's gentle guidances and offerings, on his mission to Alaska. His realizations came too late, but we can learn from his mistakes and make sure we let people in to our hearts and allow them to change us and guide us before we go too far out on our own to be able to come back.

Dan Thomas

I have read over these posts and come to the concusion that there are two schools of thought on Chris Mc Candless. One group would submit that he was a loon, albeit a very intelligent loon, who was more concerned with himslef than his family. A guy who wanted to live on the edge, but never quite learned how to. Then we have the group whom idolize him as one would a mystic or a genius deep thinker, who's every move had an underlining reason that needs to be explored for its true meaning. Lets face facts, Chris was a tragic individual. A person who found it easier to run from his problems than to confront them head on. He was neither a hero or particularly courageous. For all of his considerable intelligence, he had little responsibility. I have known many people who are smart beyond belief, yet dumb as a rock when it comes to life itself. I have come to the realization that Chris was a dreamer, and as he lived out his adventures, he always interacted with other people. But Alaska was different, with noone to interact with...then the lonelyness set in , then dispair, then hopelessness. Thats why he wrote the true happienss must be shared. He found out the real message, only too late for himself.

Emmy

I don't think he was stupid, crazy, or suicidal, but his lack of life experience at the outset of his trek was astounding. I wouldn't be surprised if he was one of those kids who got to college and didn't know how to do his own laundry. I'm not an experienced backpacker, but he made so many basic and obvious errors just in the first couple of chapters of the book that it would have been funny had it not eventually gotten him killed. He never did become independent--he didn't eat for days until somebody felt sorry for him and fed him; he got lost in Mexico; even at the end, he left a note on the bus begging to be rescued. Courage is not the same thing as ignorance of what you should fear, and awe of nature is not the same thing as respect for it. My grandfather was an excellent outdoorsman and had a tremendous amount of respect for nature, but he knew perfectly well that it was not his "friend".

geoff

we must remember that all we know of Chris McCandless' actual intentions are either second hand or educated guesses. We cannot look at his ideaas and philosophies, taking them as complete. Chris was an obvious dreamer, actively building his philosophy. Yes, he was unprepared and many of his decisions were rash, but many of us are unprepared when entering new situations ( most of our new situations are nowhere near as ambitous as Alaska). However, I find it hard to argue his courage. Leaving the comfortable status quo always takes courage. I do not share the same ambitions or ideas that Chris does and I believe that it would have been better forr him to tell his family of his plans. I cannot fault him for what he was trying to accomplish. As an individual, he was finding his own path. Too often people haven't the courage to do this and end up with miserable lives as accountants or dentists(not that there is anything wrong with these proffesions). All should be able to choose ther life path regardless of the societal norm. He was a dreamer and different than most, but to call him ignorant or an imbecile would be quite closed-minded. Would that not be ignorant of you?

geoff

we must remember that all we know of Chris McCandless' actual intentions are either second hand or educated guesses. We cannot look at his ideaas and philosophies, taking them as complete. Chris was an obvious dreamer, actively building his philosophy. Yes, he was unprepared and many of his decisions were rash, but many of us are unprepared when entering new situations ( most of our new situations are nowhere near as ambitous as Alaska). However, I find it hard to argue his courage. Leaving the comfortable status quo always takes courage. I do not share the same ambitions or ideas that Chris does and I believe that it would have been better forr him to tell his family of his plans. I cannot fault him for what he was trying to accomplish. As an individual, he was finding his own path. Too often people haven't the courage to do this and end up with miserable lives as accountants or dentists(not that there is anything wrong with these proffesions). All should be able to choose ther life path regardless of the societal norm. He was a dreamer and different than most, but to call him ignorant or an imbecile would be quite closed-minded. Would that not be ignorant of you?

Greg

I just rented this movie. It ended with the journal entry that read that "happiness is best shared."

Did it take Supertramp two years living like a hobo to figure that out?

I regret the senseless loss of his life. If this example of poor judgment and ill-used intelligence is the result of four years at Emory University, his parents are due a tuition refund.

Jason

I think to continually mock a person 16 years after his death is one of the stupidest, immature, and inanely futile attempts to make us look like we know anything. Who cares if he didn't bring a map, didn't do things by the book. He died and yet we call him a "friggin' idiot", "Fools like him are a dime a dozen", "I think the guy was mentally ill - possibly suffering from schizophrenia", "an over privileged white boy" and "hello! how hard would it have been to build a raging fire beside his bus???)". I don't know why people even write half of the things they do in these posts. What's the point? Is he going to come back from the dead, take all of your criticism as constructive, pat you on the back and thank you for your advice? Think about how absolutely offensive and harsh you are being on someone who has been dead for 16 years, you are exactly the type of people he wanted to get away from in the first place, and I can't blame him.

Internet Guy

Jason wrote:

"Think about how absolutely offensive and harsh you are being on someone who has been dead for 16 years, you are exactly the type of people he wanted to get away from in the first place, and I can't blame him."

Hey dude, this is the internet. We don't care about feelings here.

Jason

Hey Internet Guy

You are an absolute shit head. Did I hurt your feelings? oh that's right, we don't care about feelings on the internet.

Intelligent Guy

Internet Guy,

How shallow are you? asshole

Intelligent Guy

"This is the Internet. We don't care about feelings here."

Wow. Profoundly put. Are you going into the ninth grade next year, or the tenth?

Intelligent Guy

"This is the Internet. We don't care about feelings here."

Wow. How pathetic are you internet guy? No feelings, huh? You are a complete jackass. So are you going into the eighth grade next year? Or ninth? What you are saying makes you a complete and undeniably stupid person. Think about it, Einstein - or since this is the internet, do you not think either? What about act? See? I'm confused, I wasn't sure when to switch one off. Absolutely pathetic post there Internet Guy. Great name too. Internet guy, it's no wonder a bland name gets a bland person who can't feel. Real original.

Kerry

For a guy that wanted to embrace and live in harmony with "the wild" too bad it was so one sided and only on his terms. He killed a tremendous amount of wildlife. It is not necessary to have that much kill if/when the meat is dressed with the most basic of hunting skills. What a waste of animal life. Thanks alot Chris!!!

Jack Bauer

Kerry,

What the hell are you talking about? What do you think he was supposed to eat while he was embracing and living in harmony with the wild, as you so elegantly put it? He tried eating plants and that ended up killing him. What do you know about living in the wild, Kerry? You're probably sitting in your little cubicle working your 9-5 job just waiting for the clock to strike 5 so you can go home and end another miserable day at a miserable job. So before you go accusing him of wasting animal life, try doing something worthwile with your life instead of pointing out the faults of someone who died 17 years ago. Read the book Kerry, it tells more than the movie.

verminator

I think this movie either appeals to-or irritates- the viewer depending on what stage in their life they see it in. I also think one's perspective also comes from where they live.

If I had seen this as an angst ridden teenager or even as a confused, recent college grad, I'm sure I would probably relate to McCandless. In fact, when I think of it, I can remember periods of my life when I felt out of touch with the world around me and wished to go somewhere totally dfiferent or even be someone else.

Now, of course, I have to think hard to remember those feelings because I don't feel like that at all. I watched the movie and felt mildly irritated with McCandless at times. I wasn't familiar with the story so I didn't know how it was to end but I wasn't surprised that he died.

I've been to Alaska to visit friends who are Native Americans. Even in my short time there, I understood that it takes a community of people to live in the environment. There are periods of happiness shared amongst the community, but I would never romanticize a trip into the bush. In fact, this is cause for alarm if someone doesn't return at an anticipated time because people know what survival is like.

In the end, I think McCanldess could have learned a lot from people around him-instead of relying solely on book. That would have required him to listen instead of trying to enlighten everyone else.

Poor Kid. RIP.

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