Into the Wild
In the Spring of 1992, Chris McCandless graduated from Emory University. His life until that point had been, superficially at least, a model of the American norm. His parents had risen to a respectable upper middle class existence and had provided a very comfortable life for their children. What lied beneath the surface though would soon capture the interest and imagination of many, many people. After Chris finished his obligatory stay in academia, he donated the remaining $24,000 in his savings account to Oxfam and headed west on a quest to find truth; on a quest that would take him into the wild. Chris’ story was originally told in the book, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer ( Eiger Dreams, Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven ) and adapted by Sean Penn. What is remarkable about Chris’ story is not that he had the feelings that he did. Many of us feel that there must be a more simple and more true world beyond the commuting, clocking-in-and-out, bill paying existences that many of us live. What haunts us about Chris’ story is that he actually DID what he did. With a huge amount of courage and unapologetic verve, Chris set out to find a place that was true and unencumbered by mundane predictability.
The film, directed with simplicity and grace by Sean Penn and shot with gorgeous austerity by Eric Gautier, strikes a special chord for the dharma student. To us, Chris is reminiscent of the ancient Indian yogi, fearless and full of renunciation; sure of only one thing: that samsara must be escaped at any cost. On the one hand, Chris’ story is an inspirational tale that shows that one can renounce the things that they know will never lead to happiness and on the other, it is a cautionary tale which reminds us of Shantideva’s teaching that we should give according to our abilities; to start small and that if we are able only to give fruits and vegetables, this is what we should do.