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#2984 - Monday, November 12, 2007 - Editor: Gloria Lee  

Nondual Highlights -  

  People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about ...

From The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

    This past weekend I saw Into The Wild, written and directed by Sean Penn.  Both Penn and the author of the original book have expressed how this young man's story haunted them and drove them to try to know and understand Christopher McCandless. The film evokes a similar longing in me. Because the film presents a very enigmatic and complex young man undergoing a transformative crucible of life experiences, a big part of its success comes from resisting the easy answers. The bare bones of the facts are simple enough. After graduation, Chris turns his back on his affluent family, donates his grad school fund to Oxfam, then sets out on a two year road trip worthy of Kerouac. From a journal he gave a friend, the places he went and some of the people he met can be reconstructed. But exactly why he left and what he was looking for on his journey are very much left up to you. Indeed, how they both change with time and experience is the real story, enigmatic as it is.  

The reviews and reactions are all over the place. To some he was just a spoiled rich kid who read too many books and had grandiose delusions of some silly quest. To wilderness experts, Chris was just another under-equipped greenhorn who made some stupid mistakes, however sad the consequences. For those who see the the quest's more heroic side, his initial and progressive renunciation of the supports of civilization and his efforts to "kill the false being within" are admirable. His tragic end is not a plot-spoiler, as it is implied at the very beginning of the film.  

What I see most is simply "the rapture of being alive", as Chris is brought to life by the incredible Emile Hirsch.  On screen nearly every minute, he seems more to be channelling Chris than acting. He certainly makes the impact Chris had on those he met very real and believable, because he's now connecting with you in some deep primal place. You won't want to miss seeing this film. Take a look first at the trailer, and be sure to also turn on the music for Eddie Vedder's great soundtrack. The music and nature scenery are not background, but equal forces that assume their full presence in this time-shifting plot.


Excerpt from "Joseph Campbell - The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers"

MOYERS: But aren’t many visionaries and even leaders and heroes close to the edge of neuroticism?

CAMPBELL: Yes, they are.

MOYERS: How do you explain that?

CAMPBELL: They’ve moved out of the society that would have protected them, and into the dark forest, into the world of fire, of original experience. Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and so you’ve got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it or you can’t. You don’t have to go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations. The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience – that is the hero’s deed.     

  The next excerpt is from the first magazine article that prompted Krakauer to write his book, Into The Wild.    

Death of an Innocent

How Christopher McCandless lost his way in the wilds
By Jon Krakauer    excerpt

McCandless doesn't really conform to the common bush-casualty stereotype: He wasn't a kook, he wasn't an outcast, and although he was rash and incautious to the point of foolhardiness, he was hardly incompetent or he would never have lasted 113 days. If one is searching for predecessors cut from the same exotic cloth, if one hopes to understand the personal tragedy of Chris McCandless by placing it in some larger context, one would do well to look at another northern land, in a different century altogether.

Off the southeastern coast of Iceland sits a low barrier island called Papos. Treeless and rocky, perpetually knocked by gales howling off the North Atlantic, the island takes its name from its first settlers, now long gone, the Irish monks known as papar. They arrived as early as the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., having sailed and rowed from the western coast of Ireland. Setting out in small open boats called curraghs, made from cowhide stretched over light wicker frames, they crossed one of the most treacherous stretches of ocean in the world without knowing what they'd find on the other side.

The papar risked their lives--and lost them in untold droves--but not in the pursuit of wealth or personal glory or to claim new lands in the name of a despot. As the great Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen points out, they undertook their remarkable voyages "chiefly from the wish to find lonely places, where these anchorites might dwell in peace, undisturbed by the turmoil and temptations of the world." When the first handful of Norwegians showed up on the shores of Iceland in the ninth century, the papar decided the country had become too crowded, even though it was still all but uninhabited. They climbed back into into their curraghs and rowed off toward Greenland. They were drawn west across the storm-wracked ocean, past the edge of the known world, by nothing more than hunger of the spirit, a queer, pure yearning that burned in their souls.

Reading of the these monks, one is struck by their courage, their reckless innocence, and the intensity of their desire. And one can't help thinking of Chris McCandless.

Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild, says that the years he spent researching Chris's life and writing the book were the best in his life. "I was so engaged. I was obsessive. I spent 18, 20 hours a day for three years tracking down leads. And the more I learned about this young man, the more I was inspired and amazed," Jon says.

Jon says the most inspiring element of Chris's personality was the "impossibly high standards" he set for himself.

"It was this wonderful thing about him and his downfall because he believed that it's wrong to get too comfortable in life. It's wrong to take the easy path. You're here to live, not to sit on the couch," he says. "Everyone can take something from that, and it's just, get outside your comfort zone. I mean, all of us want to stay with what we know and what's comfortable. And he believed you grow and have the best adventures and learn the most if you just step outside that comfort zone."

Jon doesn't mean that everyone should go off and live in the wilderness. "We can't live like him," he says. "But this message [is] about just doing something different. Get outside that comfort zone. Test yourself. Just don't be tempted to take the easiest path. Life is better when you step off that path, however far you step. Happiness is only real when shared."

Sean says he wanted to make this movie because of the things Chris believed. "I wouldn't have made this movie, I wouldn't have felt what I felt about this story if I didn't feel that we had become increasingly comfort addicted," he says. "[Chris] created an entire life in that short time, and I think the big challenge is to feel our lives while we have them."

Into the Wild tells the tragic real-life story of Chris McCandless, a college grad from a wealthy family who set out to experience true adventure. In 1990, Chris donated his life savings to charity, abandoned his belongings and dropped out of sight. He changed his name to Alexander Supertramp, and for the next two years he backpacked through the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Along the way, he encountered people who were moved by his idealism…but Chris took his final journey alone. He ventured into the Alaskan wilderness, carrying very few supplies. For nearly four months, Chris called an abandoned bus his home and lived off of the land. Sadly, a series of catastrophic mistakes altered the course of his life—113 days after his Alaskan adventure began, Chris starved to death.

Sean says the day he bought Into the Wild, he read it cover to cover twice. "What Jon Krakauer did in retracing the steps of Chris McCandless made such an indelible impression on me," he says. "There was something about this kind of relentless pursuit of authenticity [that was moving]. … There was some great courage in it that never let go of me."

Chris's sister Carine, who helped Sean Penn write narration for Into the Wild, says her brother was a breed apart. "I think that Chris was someone who didn't waste his life wondering what other people would think of him. He lived his life wondering what he would think about himself," she says.

While some people say that Chris was searching for himself, Carine says that's not true. "Chris knew exactly who he was," she says. "He was searching for a place in this world that he fit into, where he could be true to himself. He was searching for truth, purity, honesty. He was searching for the things that he didn't experience in his childhood."

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