The onset of July brought about another contemplative season. I was forced to put things into perspective, living in this pandemic, and to think hard and clear about what it is that I really want in life.
One of the things I am proudest of in my 30 years of existence was to have begun exploring the world’s rawness at a young, tender, and innocent age. This is an old story, I know, but it is one of my favorites. A season I relish with so much fondness and joy.
When I moved to the consumerist country I live in today, I won’t lie and say I was not swayed by its temptations. Sure, I was, and I gave in occasionally, even until now. I’m a city-dweller now who’s living in the sprawl! Singapore is lush with vast forests of comfort and safety, and I am very grateful to be here in this season. There even came a point in maybe my second or third year living here when I thought that, perhaps, during my youth, I was just riding on the whims of my obsession with Alexander Supertramp, and that maybe, this whole nature-loving, sea-yearning quality of mine was just a phase I would grow out of.
But more than a decade later, I still yearn the same wants, but in different forms now. These wants have turned into needs.
“But in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.” – Christopher McCandless (or Alexander Supertramp). This part of the book, I’ve highlighted hungrily in a most vibrant yellow, gave me the resolve to get uncomfortable, pick up my backpack, and “heed the call of nature”.
That was ten years ago.
Reading this now, well, I get very uncomfortable. I definitely do not have that same extreme thirst to explore life the way he did, especially now that I am in the midst of planning a family (plus, spoiler alert, Supertramp dies!), so maybe a Captain Fantastic approach would be more ideal now, haha.
Also, as I’ve made time for blogging again during my enrichment time, I am reminded of this post from eight years ago (I was 22!) because I am still thinking about the recent news of the Magic Bus being lifted from its Alaskan home where Supertramp was found dead 63° 52′ 6.23″ N, 149° 46′ 9.49″ W, and it gives me joy remembering why I write and keep memory treasure chests such a journal (which I also have), but in this case, this blog. I still hope to get to see that bus one day (in safer, non-life threatening conditions such as a museum). It has always been in my Bucket List to see the Magic Bus.
The piece below is about my obsession for Alexander Supertramp and my thoughts when I saw the movie. Into the Wild is still my favorite book of all time, but I know, deep inside, that I’ve outgrown some of my younger feelings towards Supertramp’s story. I still get so excited and flooded with adrenaline whenever I see the highlighted pages and underlines of my book (which is around 11 years old), so I just decided to make this post public again. It’s fun to read what my 22-year-old self had to say about the movie; also, it also serves as my compass in some ways.
Two years he walks the earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, ’cause “the West is the best.” And now after two rambling years comes the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual pilgrimage. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the Great White North. No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.
– Alexander Supertramp, May 1992
Today’s devotion talks about the Book of Nature, followed by a mini-story about the life of John Muir, leader of the forest conservation movement, and developer of some national parks in the US such as Sequoia, Mount Rainier, and Yosemite. According to the story, Muir would literally explore and indulge himself in the wilderness. And while doing so, he began to realize that the true beauty of this world, uncorrupted by domestication and civilization, could come from no one else but from the hand of God.
This topic, the wilderness, takes me back to last Friday’s movie date where I was able to watch Sean Penn’s Into the Wild. The movie revolves around the story of Christopher McCandless and how he decided to abandon everything—his college diploma, his privileged lifestyle, his family, his life—in the pursuit of finding himself in the process. He also leaves his old name and takes up a new one: Alexander Supertramp.
There are a couple of perspectives that weave the movie together: Chistopher McCandless himself and his sister, Carine. This combination of narratives is actually a striking mélange of experiences, viewing an adventure through the lens of both the wanderlust and through the eyes of a lost man’s sister. The movie has a magical capability of absorbing you into the story, allowing you to feel the heart and soul of Christopher McCandless. Once the credits start rolling, reality settles back in. You feel like you just woke up from a surreal dream or a mesmerizing trance. This movie will break you, it will mend you; it will unstitch you, and then it will sew you back together. This is definitely one of the most beautiful and riveting movies I have ever seen, peppered with lessons by Supertramp himself that will certainly last a lifetime.
1. The freedom and simple beauty is too good to pass up.
Sometimes, we forget to stop and smell the flowers. We forget to bask ourselves under the sun’s rays and be thankful for a sunny day. We have been so absorbed with the hustle and bustle of life, especially when new gadgets run over our already-good ones. We always want more and more of things, and we usually turn a blind eye on what beauty already exists. I read in Paulo Coelho’s Aleph that “the most sophisticated things in the world are precisely those within the reach of everyone.” Freedom is one, love is another. And the funny thing is that these things that make sense of our lives aren’t even material.
This also reminds me of Louis CK’s “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy” interview on Conan.
‘Cause now we live in, in an amazing, amazing world and it’s wasted on the, on the crappiest generation of just spoiled idiots that don’t care because, this is what people are like now.
– Louis CK
2. God’s place is all around us; it is in everything and in anything we can experience. People just need to change the way they look at things.
I needed to hear this.
Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty jaded with life. There were moments when I’d feel boxed up and directionless, mulling over the question “what am I doing with my life?” over and over and over again. But it is true when McCandless mentioned that God is in everything we encounter. He wouldn’t put as where we are without a reason. Everything has meaning; God intended it. And if we look at things differently, we might just realize that we are where we are not by accident—we were all made for something bigger than anything we could’ve ever imagined.
3. If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed.
Taking risks can sometimes seem like the stupidest thing in the world, but sometimes, it’s the only way to make sense out of things. Living strictly by-the-book closes your mind to magical ideas and great inventions. When we close ourselves to the things that have always been familiar, we are being cowards. We can save ourselves from the hurt, but we also protect ourselves from happiness. Be vulnerable and allow life to consume you once in a while and take the free fall. Great things flow from open boxes, so don’t limit yourself to its corners. Sometimes, you just have stop overthinking and just go with your gut. It’ll always be worth it.
4. The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences.
Climb a mountain, dive in the ocean, take a hike. Visit a foreign land, eat a rare delicacy, make friends with a stranger. Make snow or sand angels, go rafting, fall in love. Adopt a pet, fly a kite, go bungee jumping. Kiss in the rain, dance in the moonlight, have a food fight. These rare and extraordinary experiences are the puzzle pieces that form a meaningful life. It’ll never hurt to try something new.
5. When you want something in life, you just got to reach out and grab it.
Don’t let anything or anyone stop you from reaching your dreams. In a world where judgment is cast on everyone, it is sometimes difficult to fully express yourself one way or another. And though it is easily said than done, these things shouldn’t even be taken into account. More so, don’t let what others think about you define you. Let your character define who you are. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and constantly encourage you to achieve your goals in life. You can never go wrong with good company.
6. When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God’s light shines through you.
Ron Franz, one of the people McCandless meets along the way says, “There is some kind of bigger thing that we can all appreciate and it sounds to me you don’t mind calling it God. But when you forgive, you love. And when you love, God’s light shines through you.”
To forgive means to heal, and to heal means to love. People can hurt us and crush us, and sometimes, we are even the ones who bring the downfall onto ourselves. Forgiving is hard—whether it be others or ourselves. But allowing us to heal from that pain unconditionally opens so many doors to let the light overflow from our hearts. Let love be our highest goal.
7. The sea’s only gifts are harsh blows, and occasionally the chance to feel strong.
The sea’s only gifts are harsh blows, and occasionally the chance to feel strong. Now I don’t know much about the sea, but I do know that that’s the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions. Facing the blind death stone alone, with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.
– Christopher McCandless
Detachment can sometimes be what you need to feel strong. Leaving behind what is unnecessary and preventive to your growth is hard, especially if you have been so familiar and comfortable with it. There are moments when it is necessary for us to think for ourselves alone and to use our head to make sense of what’s in our heart. Learning and finding the courage to stand on one’s two feet, especially after a harsh fall, can sometimes give us the strength we need the most.
8. Happiness is only real when shared.
No man is an island. Men weren’t meant to live alone, and this I have been learning progressively. I have found happiness and joy in sharing my quirks and silly moments with my friends. When we reach some successes in life, we should celebrate with others because they helped us reach these goals and milestones. We shouldn’t be selfish with our joy, because happiness is meant to be shared. Seeing smiles and hearing laughs from the people we love only confirms that happiness is not only a concept, but also a real experience.
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Christopher McCandless’s Alexander Supertramp’s story serves as a constant reminder for us to keep on exploring, to keep on going, and to keep on traveling. Embarking on adventures always gives us lessons that are unmatched by any price tag. Life has always been compared to a journey, and it is up to us to choose our mode of travel. We choose our stopovers; we determine the places that we want to explore on a deeper level. Life is fleeting and time is flying fast. While everything is uncertain but predestined, the things we choose to do with our lives and how we make each moment count are what matters. And just like any successful journey, reaching our destinations—our Great Perhaps—will always evoke fulfillment. Here’s to a life worth living.
It should not be denied that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations. Absolute freedom. And the road has always led west.
– Christopher McCandless