I like to read books for a varied reasons – they add knowledge, they add value, it’s meditation for me, it’s travel for me, and I take liking to fellow bibliophiles, especially, if they like the books I like. Also, what motivates me to keep reading is the fact that every book changes something in me, adds a new perspective, the way I live, the way I see life, society, country, etc. I really picked up reading couple of years back, as I discovered gem after gem, and I couldn’t think of not reading books since. I am guilty of having a ‘book debt’, where I have books which I have purchased, but never read. It’s a good debt to have I guess. I happily pay off my EMIs for it. One such book I wanted to read since quite some time and ended up reading is Jon Krakauer’s ‘Into The Wild’. The story about Christopher McCandless, who called himself as ‘Alexander Supertramp’.
When I talk about the book or the film, or read the reviews, there are people quick to dismiss Chris as an idiot, a fool who left his family on a self-discovering journey, a la Buddha. As I started reading the book, I was hooked to it. Chris when he died, was around the age I am now. Therefore, perhaps, I could relate to him and his story, his journey. I read the book partly with a sense of envy wishing if I could do what he did, only to realize I tread a different path, moderate and sober. If I had ever met Chris, I would have took an instant liking to him, an introverted sort of guy, who liked reading books, traveling around, philosophizing about life. The letters he wrote, the postcards he sent, really struck a chord with me. He was a good writer, a matured writer, a depth which only comes from reading books.
Chris initially did come across as a smug, who didn’t care about his family, donated all his savings to charity, burnt the money he had, left his car and walked into the wild. But what really moved me were the relationships he had with people he came across, especially the one with Ron Franz, an eighty year old man, who gets inspired from Chris to live a life outside his comfort zone.
“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 conservation, 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 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, 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’ letter to Ron Franz
In a way, I felt like I was traveling with Chris, talking to those people, seeing how it shaped Chris and how Chris shaped others. But the real transformative experience for Chris was what he called his ultimate quest- living into the wild, in Alaska. The experience that ultimately took his life, in the most unfortunate way possible. After spending two years away from family,running away from cities, detesting civilization, reading books, traveling and talking to people, a realization dawned on Chris – “HAPPINESS IS REAL ONLY WHEN SHARED.” He writes this down in his weakest final moments. He dies lonely, when he was yearning to go back to the civilization. But in his death, he became a shining light, an inspiration. Chris really moved me, and I know will stay with me forever, urging me to look within my own wilderness, asking me to live out of my comfort zone, nudging me to get into the wild.