” There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea and the music in its roar;
I love not man the less, but Nature more.”
– Lord Byron
“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
– Henry David Thoreau
My bride and I spent a recent evening watching the film adaptation of the book “Into The Wild”, the true story of Christopher McCandless. The young man turns his back on wealth, society and materialism to seek healing and peace in the Alaskan wilderness.
This movie has been out for a while, so many of you may have either written this one off or have already seen it. However, I thought the story was very thought provoking.
Those familiar with Henry David Thoreau’s writings in “Walden, Or Life in the Woods” will find some common themes here, specifically the rejuvenating powers of wilderness. However rather than being set in the past century, the context here is modern.
Director Sean Penn flashes back and forth in time in the film to allow the viewer to discover that it was an extremely dysfunctional family that acted as the catalyst for this journey. Parental infidelity, coupled with their materialism and rage drove the young man to escapism rather than to seek authentic relationships.
Throughout the film I was struck with how many people McCandless formed relationships with as he worked his way across country to his ultimate goal in Alaska. Many seemed to be close friendships that could have helped heal his relational wounds. Some encouraged him to reconnect with his family. Others could no understand why he was doing what he was. Most seemed to be relationships that were surrogates for those he should have had with his family. In the end his wounds were so deep that only his singular passion for Alaska kept his hopes of restoration alive.
That relational issue caused me to examine some of my core beliefs. I believe we are hard-wired to be in relationship with one another, and with our creator. Much of how we view the world is influenced by our nuclear family. Relational wounds inflicted there can color and influence how we relate to God and to others; both good and bad.
The tragedy is we sometimes have people in our lives who are relationally so damaged that even with our best efforts , they slip through our fingers. We love them. They may even acknowledge that love, but they continue on a path of self-destruction. It is hard to watch…hard not to be able to help. It’s hard to know that help was available, but they would not, or could not take it.
I don’t have the answer, gentle reader, to the dilemma.
“It is those we live with and love and should know that elude us”
– Norman Maclean “A River Runs Through It