Going Fast Alone Over Going Far Together

by Mark Votava

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Sometimes the right story can really transform the imagination.  I’ll never forget going into our little neighborhood cinema in Downtown Tacoma and seeing the film Into the Wild.  It is a true story about a young man by the name of Christopher McCandless, who experiences disillusionment with the dreams promoted by his family and schooling in Western culture.

  •  The facade of what society deems as success

He realizes the deep brokenness behind the facade of what society often deems as success.  After giving away the money he had saved for law school, he went on a journey to live in the Alaskan wilderness with almost nothing but his will to discover life, freedom, and truth.

  •  Fleeing society to live in the wild

Christopher encounters all kinds of new friends on his journey from Georgia to Alaska, but leaves them all in pursuit of his dream to flee society and live in the wild.  He loves the books of Tolstoy, London, and Thoreau; he delights in their rugged individualism, and their rejection of mainstream success.  He has only one thing on his mind throughout his travels: to get to Alaska and experience life the way it was meant to be, in its purest form, with nothing but the rivers, sky, fresh air, and trees around him.  It takes him about two years, but he finally manages to get to Alaska.

  •  Living in an abandoned bus in the middle of the Alaskan  wilderness

After several months of living in an abandoned bus in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, he cannot find any more animals to hunt. There is a scene where he is screaming about how hungry he is out under the open sky.  Desperate, he searches out berries to pick and eat.

  • Trapped in the wilderness and starving to death

But the next day he awakens to a growing pain in his stomach and realizes that he has eaten berries that were poisonous.  If left untreated, his digestive tract will stop functioning, and he’ll starve to death.  Trapped in the wilderness because the river is too high for him to cross back over, he cannot get back to civilization and get help.

  • Dying alone in the wild with no one to share his pain  

In a very moving closing scene, he realizes what has happened and breaks down and weeps.  He knows he is going to die alone in the wild with no one to help him, or even someone to share his pain.  His body is weak to the point where he can barely move.

  • Life is only to be experienced when it is shared

With his last efforts he scratches into his journal a final untimely revelation:  Life is only to be experienced when it is shared.  Soon afterwards he lies down on the mattress in the bus with his head looking into the sky, takes his last breath, and dies.

  •  What a disturbing conclusion!

As I left the theatre, I could not shake its powerful, and even disturbing hold on me.  What life, beauty and potential there was in this young man.  His imagination and hope for another way of life was so powerful that it was able to shake him out of cultural complacency.  But what a disturbing conclusion!

  • Disconnection and isolation, in the end, took his life

In escaping the traps of culture, he lost the hope that is found in relationships.  He needed others in his life.  Individual pursuits, no matter how worthy, could only take him so far. Disconnection and isolation from others not only wore upon his spirit; in the end, it took his life.

  •  Using different techniques to keep from having to live  interdependently with others

I remember walking out of the movie theatre shocked and saddened that such a promising life could end in such a tragic way.  But we do this same kind of thing all the time, using different techniques to keep from having to live interdependently with others.

  •  Choosing to go fast alone over going far together  

Shane Claiborne says in his book The Irresistible Revolution, “Community is what we were created for…  But that doesn’t mean community is easy.  For everything in this world tries to pull us away from community, pushes us to choose independence over interdependence, to choose great things over small things, to choose going fast alone over going far together.”

How can we live more interdependently in everyday life?