It’s hard to understand the self-destructive impulse in some people. Take for instance, Chris McCandless.
McCandless was a young man disaffected with his father, the government, and basically any authority structure. So much was his discontent, that he isolated himself from all those institutions and relationships. Somewhere along the line, he equated an agrarian, natural life with the antithesis of what he felt a corrupt and Machiavellian world.
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.
– Chris McCandless, April 1992, 4 months before he starved to death in the Alaskan wilderness
I read Jon Krakauer’s moving biography of Chris McCandless recently. It’s a harrowing story for sure. I was really puzzled with Chris’ almost fatalist vision. He was an ideologue so dissatisfied with the world and his parents that he was driven to complete isolation. That his isolation evidenced itself as a predisposition to the wilderness, to a more earthen existence was perhaps no coincidence. There’s something almost romantic about a more materially fundamental life. It’s less complex.
And yet it’s presicely the unforeseen complexities of the natural world that finally claimed McCandless. Curiously, Krakauer sympathized with Chris in some striking ways, perhaps like a lot of men:
Lewis Krakauer loved his chidren deeply, in the autocratic way of fathers, but his worldview was colored by a relentlessly competitive nature. Life as he saw it was a contest… It was drilled into me that anything less than winning was failure. In the impressionable way of sons, I did not consider this rhetorically; I took him at his word. The revelation that he was merely human, and frightfully so, was beyond my power to forgive. Two decades after… I came to understand that I had baffled and infuriated my father at least as much as he had baffled and infuriated me. I saw that I had been selfish and unbending and a giant pain in the ass.
– Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild, the biography of Chris McCandless