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Reading Maketh a Full Man...

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Currently reading

The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Canto)
C.S. Lewis
Boys and Girls Learn Differently!: A Guide for Teachers and Parents
Michael Gurian, Terry Trueman, Patricia Henley
Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet
Christian Wiman
Deep River: The Life and Music of Robert Shaw
Keith C. Burris
Daring, Trusting Spirit
John De Gruchy
The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church
John Thavis
The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
Orlando Figes

Into the Wild

Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer This book is a wonderful cautionary tale. I will probably read it again with my daughter when she is old enough to discuss it. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the reason most people will read the book and see the new upcoming movie, is for a different reason. Chris McCandless (in the book, and from what I understand in the movie), is a hero and courageous for flying in the face of everything he grew up with to find a better way. A young man unhappy with the materialism, hunger, and waste in the world; angry with his father for not being a perfect father to him; intellectually superior, a fantastic athlete in top condition... and yet a young man who died because of his own decisions and his own actions. He cut off ties to his family, hitchhiked and worked his way to Alaska, headed "into the wild" in April 1992, and was found dead in August 1992 most probably from starvation. How wonderful to "fight against the odds" and "ask real questions". Unfortunately, Chris didn't really fight against any odds, he took the easy way out by cutting off real relationships. Chris may have asked real questions, but he denied real people the opportunity to answer them in any way, because he had already decided what was "the right way". This is not heroic. It is immaturity. It is tragic and sad, yes, but not heroic or courageous.After reading the book, I think Chris died because he was foolish. Intellectually bright, yes. Athletically gifted, yes. But he had no wisdom. Wisdom has been defined as "skill in living", and wisdom is not always bestowed on the young and the healthy and the intellectually smart. The opposite of wisdom is foolishness. His anger and questioning drove him not to wisdom, but to self-reliance and an overweening arrogance in his own ability to "get through it". Well, we see the result of those decisions and those attitudes.... to quote Darwin, Chris is an example of how "survival of the fittest" applies. Chris was not "fit", therefore he did not "survive". But why wasn't he fit? He was smart and young and gifted in many ways, but he chose to abandon relationships and abandon those who loved him and create himself anew with no relationships and no ties. He walked away from people who loved him, made friends with people who came to love him, and walked away from all of that to find his answers "in the wild" on his own. The way away from love and relationship leads not to life, but indeed to death. And death is what Chris got.The book quotes Chris' mother as saying, "I haven't prayed since we lost him." (pg. 202) An older man who befriended Chris, Ronald Franz, also says, "When Alex left for Alaska, I prayed. I asked God to keep his finger on the shoulder of that one; I told him that boy was special. But he let Alex die. So on December 26, when I learned what had happened, I renounced the Lord. I withdrew my church membership and became an atheist. I decided I couldn't believe in a God who would let something that terrible happen to a boy like Alex." (pg. 60) But God didn't do anything to Chris, except let him do as he wanted? If Chris sought real answers to his hard questions, God is there, and God can help, but you have to know you need help and submit to someone wiser than you. Chris McCandless never submitted willingly to anyone, and he certainly never admitted anyone else had teaching or wisdom for him. He was smarter than everyone else, better able to see the truth than anyone else. So the heritage Chris McCandless left is one that drives his mother to stop praying, and converts an old man to atheism. Is this the heritage anyone would want?So read this book, but read it with questions in mind. Why are we lauding a young man as a hero who was actually a foolish man? What kind of society are we in where real courage and real heroism are somehow playing 2nd fiddle to selfishness and arrogance? When are you so intellectually intelligent that you become stupid? Is there any time when foolish decisions could be called "courageous"? In a search for truth and what really matters in life, is it acceptable to think nothing of hurting those people who are most vulnerable to you? When you die, will the way you lived your life cause others to abandon their faith or grow in their faith? Is it ever courageous to be selfish and think only of yourself? Is it harder to walk away from a relationship, or to stay in a relationship and work on making it better? Would you ever teach anyone else that the way to have real relationships is to limit yourself only to those people who cannot ever hurt you?Real courage, real heroism comes when you love others and you serve others. Real courage has nothing selfish in it. Fathers and husbands who remain with their families and provide for them, even though they would rather have a mid-life crisis and leave it all, they are courageous and heroic. They remain, they work, they don't father or husband perfectly, but they remain in difficult relationships. It courageous to stay in the hard parts of life, and try. Mothers and wives who sacrifice and serve again and again and again without books being written about them, without thanks, but who continue to love and give of themselves to others. That is courageous. It is hard to stay in messy relationships. It is easy to leave. It is courageous to stay and do hard things. It is easy to leave and do what you want.So, let's read this book, but read it as a cautionary tale. This is what happens when you seemingly 'have it all', but have not love. When you die, will people be driven to become atheists? Will people stop praying when you are dead? Or will you live a life of wisdom and love? Will you leave behind you a heritage of godly love and service? Will people pray more because of the example you left them? Will they be more loving, better mothers or fathers or sisters or brothers? Or will they become angry and arrogant and foolishness? Yes, this is a good book to read. But let's read it for the right reasons and with the right questions.[NOTE: In the book, and in the movie, the author proposes that Chris ate some poison berries which caused his death. But tests have been made around the area, and plants that would have been available to Chris were tested, and no toxic berries or plants have been found. The truth is probably that he starved. Too few calories coming in, high expenditure of calories for hunting and keeping warm resulted eventually in such a calorie deficit that he died.] Some good articles I found on Chris McCandless include:http://www.newsminer.com/news/2008/apr/06/accidental-explorer-provides-eloquent-meditations-/http://nmge.gmu.edu/textandcommunity/2006/Peter_Christian_Response.pdfAlaskan Park Ranger Peter Christian wrote: “I am exposed continually to what I will call the ‘McCandless Phenomenon.’ People, nearly always young men, come to Alaska to challenge themselves against an unforgiving wilderness landscape where convenience of access and possibility of rescue are practically nonexistent […:] When you consider McCandless from my perspective, you quickly see that what he did wasn’t even particularly daring, just stupid, tragic, and inconsiderate. First off, he spent very little time learning how to actually live in the wild. He arrived at the Stampede Trail without even a map of the area. If he [had:] had a good map he could have walked out of his predicament […:] Essentially, Chris McCandless committed suicide.”[18:] Some may argue that this is what he wanted all along, given his troubled past