Living “off the grid.”

My husband and I just finished our audiobook, Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer. It’s an oldie that was made into a movie (directed by Sean Penn) in 2007. The hubster swears we watched it years ago, all I can say is I either fell asleep (not unusual for me at all) or didn’t like it, and maybe that’s why I don’t remember.

To make a long saga short, this is the true story of Chris McCandless, a young man from a good family who rejects his parents, society and the constraints of western life. He walks away from a promising future right after graduating from college to instead explore the wild and test his survival skills. Spoiler alert: he dies of starvation (or some kind of berry poisoning) after spending over 100 days in the Alaskan wilderness.

Chris McCandless was smart, extremely well versed in the classics, friendly but dangerously convinced of his moral and intellectual superiority. The author starts the book relaying facts about the young man’s death so the reader absorbs every successive description of this guy’s self assuredness and virtue signaling knowing that he was blinded, and ultimately condemned, by the shine of his own star.

I’m sure we can all think of similar examples today.

Never before have so many who’ve lived so little had so much to say about so much. Hubris, judgement and condescension rain down from thimble sized baskets of life experience.

Just yesterday, the Wall Street Journal printed an article about a 36 year old guy from St. Louis who set out to visit every country on earth and wound up being kidnapped off the street in Syria. His desperate parents, who most likely subsidized at least part his adventure, moved heaven and earth ($$) to secure his release. Once back in the States, after a brief respite, he resumed his global tourist trek and now offers his services as a “speaker.”

I ask you, who would you rather pay to have as a speaker, the dude who carelessly put himself in danger on an extended ‘vaca’ or the folks who rescued his sorry rear-end from a war ravaged country?

Chris McCandless’ answer to living on a budget was to literally set the cash he had on fire, just as his answer to engine trouble was to abandon his car on the side of the road. The irony is that the more he pulled away from society’s requirements and responsibilities, the more dependent he became on the goodwill of others who were living within its framework. It’s no different than the world traveller whose “free spirit” delivered him straight into that Syrian dungeon; he too created a scenario where he was totally dependent on the goodwill and hard work of many, many others who made it their mission to save him from certain death.

Food, clothing, shelter, a ride, rescue.. seems freeloading is often a critical component to being a free bird.

McCandless died a painful, tragic death within half a day’s walk away from help. The trouble was, he didn’t “believe” in using maps; if he had, he would have realized that he wasn’t living that far off the grid after all.

And that, in the end, was one of the many conclusions I drew from this story:

Independence is often an illusion.

Independence, so arrogantly celebrated and flaunted, is often quietly supported by a cadre of family and friends who not only receive no credit for their help, but are often resented by the one benefitting from their concern and support. The concomitant lack of close relationships invariably creates a false sense of invincibility which often leads to very bad decisions made without context or counsel.

And lastly,

Independence, when selfishly pursued to its extreme, can deliver us to some pretty solitary and scary places that eventually, ironically, make the seeker realize the true value of the very people he or she rejected.

In McCandless’ case, that realization sadly came too late.


One of Chris McCandless’ last journal entries

7 Comments Add yours

  1. LA says:

    That was a good book

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cindy says:

      I couldn’t help find myself getting annoyed..I like Krakauer’s writing style..it was the actual story that was driving me mad..

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LA says:

        I completely get that

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a very hard time taking “advice” from somebody who has lived less than half my years on this planet. I know so many bright, wise, and beautiful young people and then there are those who grate on my last nerve and send me to my knees praying for patience. I wonder sometimes, were we so arrogant and full of ourselves in our youth? Were we? The other thing I have a lot of trouble with was the trend to see mean, derogatorily, and outright insulting diatribes of certain popular personalities upheld as people to be emulated. Hard no, at least for this gal.

    Aw, youth. Grant me patience, please dear Lord!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cindy says:

      You and me both.. and that’s a great question..were we so obnoxious? I think I probably thought I knew more than I did when I was young..but I didn’t run around telling everyone else (esp my elders) that they were idiots. We also didn’t have social media to promote people saying stupid stuff..We’re elevating people today who definitely don’t deserve half a minute of anyone’s time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sakura says:

    I know I was obnoxious, at least internally, because I kept a journal of my thoughts. But it wasn’t through difficulty, but kindness and patience that I had space to become more thoughtful myself. It’s easier to learn from rare people who set a good example than it is to decide to be some way because someone is yelling at you to do so without giving you a model, a reason, an inspiration, or an example. My friends are surprised when I tell them I was a brat because they find me respectful and patient now, but I don’t hide it because I think it’s good for people to know both “good kids” go bad, but also “bad kids” go good sometimes too. Franklin D. Roosevelt said “It is the recognition that our civilization cannot endure unless we, as individuals, realize our personal responsibility to and dependence on the rest of the world. For it is literally true that the “self-supporting” man or woman has become as extinct as the man of the stone age. Without the help of thousands of others, any one of us would die, naked and starved. Consider the bread upon our table, the clothes upon our backs, the luxuries that make life pleasant; how many men worked in sunlit fields, in dark mines, in the fierce heat of molten metal, and among the looms and wheels of countless factories, in order to create them for our use and enjoyment.” Independence is kind of a necessary journey of the soul to be mature for non-codependent interdependence, but there is always room for getting help and information, for humility. 🗺️

    Liked by 1 person

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