I just saw Into The Wild – it finally arrived on a screen within an hour of me. I have not read the book and there will be some spoilers in this discussion, although they are mostly obvious anyway.
It wasn’t what I was expecting. I’d been led to believe by a couple of reviews and the ad campaign that it was a story of one man’s escape from the rat race. I thought Christopher McCandless’ journey would give me some sort of insight into what I should be doing with my life in somehow mimicking him.
What I saw was the story of how one man affected the lives of others. Certainly McCandless does some inspirational things, but many of his actions seem those of an idiot. My appreciation came for what he was able to do (accidentally) for the people he met. His story acted as a lens for them. His pure quest for happiness allowed them find the happiness in their own lives.
And because of this, his story is truly a hero’s journey. We read the stories of heroes to be inspired and to learn how we should be living. If we’re lucky enough to encounter a hero in our life, all the better. McCandless leaves the Mundane World, crosses the Threshold, and goes through a large number of Trials, before ending his journey with a revelation, or boon, that makes the world a better place. That boon is that happiness must be shared to be fully useful. It’s a superb lesson for a world that is becoming more and more insulated.