Into The Wild

By Leo Gura - May 3, 2017

Have you seen the 2007 film, Into The Wild? If you haven’t, it’s a great self-actualization-themed movie based on the true story of a young guy who goes off to live and die in the woods after graduating college. You should definitely check it out. An inspiring story.

But if you’ve seen it, here’s a little insight I got about this film while doing my 9 day solo meditation retreat in a cabin in the woods:

If the movie resonated with you, or made you emotional, it’s because you seek enlightenment but don’t even know it.

It seems likely to me that neither the main character (Chris McCandless), nor his family, nor the writers, nor the director of the film REALLY understood what his journey was about. How can I be sure of this? Well… it’s just a guess, I can’t be sure. But because what he was searching for is just too damn difficult to stumble into by accident. It’s too subtle and too radical. And it cannot be known through any books or teachers.

What was Chris really seeking? Was he just a young guy disillusioned with the rat race and mainstream culture?

No. It goes waaaaay deeper than that.

He was seeking enlightenment.

But he probably didn’t know it. And neither did all the people in his life. And neither do you.

How could he? How could they? How could you? Enlightenment is just too far outside of anything one can imagine unless one’s experienced it. Even if you’ve read a lot about it, you still can’t fathom how radical it is in actuality.

Chris invested so much energy vagabonding, traveling around, escaping mainstream society that eventually it go him killed.

But the real journey is not external, it’s internal.

Harder than vagabonding and living in the woods is simply turning the search inside. Traveling and going rogue is in many ways just another distraction. Sure, it has a feel of adventure and romance, but it’s still materialistic. Merely abandoning your city and 9-5 job does NOT solve your problem of materialism. Living out in nature by itself is not enough. Reading romantic philosophy books by Thoreau and Emerson is not enough. Because the mind will still be turned outwards. The only way to solve this is by turning inside yourself, knowing exactly what you’re looking for: no-self. Which of course requires no change in your external circumstances.

Another option for Chris would have been to use his savings to rent a cheap motel room on the edge of town for $25/night and spend a solid 90 days self-inquiring from morning to night. In practice, that would have worked much better.

Although being alone in the woods does cut out many distractions, unless you use this window for rigorous self-inquiry, its not going to produce the kind of transformation you’re seeking.

So, should you abandon your romantic plans to go live out in the wild and settle for your current humdrum, toxic environment? That’s up to you, but whatever fork in the road you end up taking, make sure it includes many many hours of actual self-inquiry.

P.S. None of this is a criticism of Chris. It took a lot of courage for him to do what he did. Seems like he was following his life purpose as best as he knew how.

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