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Restlessness

Friday, January 12, 2007
On my mother's advice, I just finished a book called Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer. It starts with this amazing author's note:
In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do East Coast family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. Four months later his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters.
It's the real story of a man, just two years outside of college, who has given up his worldly belongings and, with visions of Jack London, Tolstoy, and Thoreau in his head, he makes a valiant - though eventually tragic - attempt to live off the land in the Alaskan wilderness.

What makes the book so profound for me isn't the excellent manner in which it's written, it's the protagonist with which I can identify in so many ways. This young man had so many traits that I can see in myself: a restlessness, a desire for adventure, a stubbornness that gazes back at me in the mirror. The biggest difference, I guess, is where we place ourselves with society and civilization. The man in this book really seemed to find himself at odds with civilization and tried to place himself as far apart from it as possible.

I, on the other hand, think that society and civilization can represent the peaks of human achievement. I think that our collective ability to land ourselves on the moon, design a microchip, compose a symphony, or even write the tragic biography that I read is a good thing, not a bad, and I strive to eventually find myself a spot (or series of spots) inside this mess, contributing to the whole. But we all have to make that choice on our own, I guess.

This is a book I think everyone should read - preferably in their younger years. There's a lot of lessons to be learned from this book, and the earlier we can learn them the better. Do me a favor, please... just try reading it.

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