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Chris McCandless and Transcendentalism
Transcript of Chris McCandless and Transcendentalism
By: Isabella Jacus
What is Transcendentalism?
Transcendentalism is transcendent forms of truths that exist beyond wisdom and experience. It rebels against the Age of Reason and strong advocates include Henry David Thoreau, Jack London, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Chris McCandless. All these individualists embrace the essence of transcendentalism and try to find higher truths within themselves by being at one with nature.
No longer would he answer to Chris McCandless; he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny – Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
This is Chris’s first step to living a transcendental lifestyle because he is abandoning his past and forging a new life and identity. By changing his name, Chris severs all ties to his family and society and takes control of his destiny. This is part of the process Chris McCandless uses to reinvent himself into a Transcendentalist.
Strong to his minimalists beliefs, Chris burns his money and after a flash flood Jon Krakauer's
describes how, “He saw the flash flood as an opportunity to shed unnecessary baggage”. This is a transcendentalist belief because it detaches one from society. Burning the money is symbolic because money helps bring luxury, and when Chris destroys it he shows he does not need luxury to be happy. Much like Emerson and Thoreau, Christopher McCandless believes life is sweetest near the bone and in accordance drops everything to fulfill this.
“'So I [Franz] asked Alex if I could adopt him, if he would be my grandson.' McCandless, uncomfortable with the request, dodged the question: 'We'll talk about it when I get back from Alaska, Ron'"- Jon Krakauer,
Into the Wild
Adhering to the Transcendentalist belief of lack of attachment, Chris purposely tries to distance himself from society and those around him who love him. Chris McCandless does this by leaving his parents without telling them when or where he is going, and by putting a block in all relationships he accumulates on his travels. Most devastatingly this is shown when he avoids the relationship with Franz, which Franz so desperately wants to grow. Typical to a transcendentalist’s belief, Chris avoids intimate attachments. He views relationships as a distraction from his goal and becomes attached to books, gleaning information from authors such as Jack London, Leo Tolstoy and Henry David Thoreau. This helps him gain happiness through solitude and nature.
“You are wrong if you think joy emanates only or principally from human relationships.God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience”-Jon Krakauer,
Into the Wild
Chris has a strong spiritual core like other transcendentalists.
He values God and the natural environment , as shown when he talks about it often. In letter to franz, he says that God placed goodness around him and he has to seize it. Chris is adventurous and realizes that God is the reason for his existence. Jon Krakauer's
Into the Wild
tells of Christopher's message saying, “I HAVE HAD A HAPPY LIFE AND THANK THE LORD. GOODBYE AND MAY GOD BLESS ALL", which is one of the last writings of him found. It shows how reverent and grateful he is to God for everything he has bestowed unto him.
“‘No thanks anyway,’ Alex replied. “I’ll be fine with what I’ve got’” Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
Because Christopher McCandless is a transcendentalist he is very self-reliant. This is demonstrated when he refuses proper hiking equipment from Jim Gallien, and also demonstrated by Henry Throeau when he lives off the land near Walden’s pond. This belief is very much transcendentalist because it helps him gain clarity, live life for himself, and minimize human interactions. This in turn helps him hold on to solitude and grasp the true spirit of transcendentalism.
Other Ways McCandless Inspired
Chris’s transcendentalist ideas are still utilized in television today. In Nickelodeon’s cartoon “The Last Airbender” and spinoff series “The Legend of Korra”, a group of people call the Air Nomads “Detached themselves from worldly concerns and found peace and freedom”. Chris, Emerson and Thoreau all do this by trying to be at one with nature and letting go of materialistic values.
It's time to begin, isn't it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Now don't you understand
That I'm never changing who I am
Imagine Dragons "It's Time"
The lyrics “I’m never changing who I am” exemplify the spirit and meaning of transcendentalism. It shows that it is possible to be a unique person and escape the seemingly monotonous life that others lead. In a transcendentalist’s eyes, life should be lived according to personal morals. It is possible to escape society and live wholly. In
Thoreau says, [if] "one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours”. This is the heart of this song’s message.
Though transcendentalism is exciting, if your eye is bigger than your stomach you are in trouble. Transcendentalism involves focusing on living by an individual’s belief and taking extreme measures to follow it. This involves doing everything possible to live desirably, and comes at the cost hurting yourself and others. Chris McCandless demonstrates this by going into the wild without letting his family know and not being prepared. Because he stays away from others he isolates himself and gets into life threatening situations. This ultimately leads to his demise and hurts those around him. Claire Jane Ackermann, who followed his path, is no better. As Mr. John Keating from “The Dead Poets Society” advises, “Sucking all the marrow out of life does not mean choking on the bone."
Negatives of Transcendentalism
Just like other transcendentalists before him, Chris is able to detach himself from worldly concerns and find peace and freedom. In doing this he attains his own supreme happiness that stems from the simplicity of being alive and truly living. Though he dies while trying to live this lifestyle, his efforts are noble and people still try to follow his path to this day. Chris died foolishly, but without regret, showing how is a transcendentalist.
“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."-Emerson
Chris McCandless's Inspiration
Just as other transcendentalists before him, Christopher McCandless finds inspiration in the sublime beauty of life. Though he does not like relationships, his amiable nature draws people to him, as shown through his journey. Though not everybody agrees with some of his extremist beliefs, they grow quite fond of him and do what they can to help him. At one point Ron Franz asks Chris if he can adopt him, showing how much Christopher inspired him. This journey inspires others, such as Claire Jane Ackermann, to follow his footsteps and embrace life.
Transcendentalism Example 1
Transcendentalism Example 2
Transcendentalism Example 3
Rejection of Relationships
Transcendentalism Example 4
Closeness to God
Transcendentalism Example 5