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Into the Wild

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There’s a movie coming out on the big screen this weekend that has been in the works for quite a while. It’s called Into the Wild and it’s based on a book of the same name by Jon Krakauer that came out in 1996. I’ve read the book and it’s a fascinating story about Christopher McCandless, a college graduate who seemingly had everything, but abandoned it for a life on the road, a life in pursuit of adventure, a life chasing truth, ascetisism, and the chance to really live out there, away from normalcy, away from culture, away from everything that traditional American society says is important.

He gives away all his possessions, burns his cash, and literally hits the road, hitchhiking and wandering through the West. He learns to survive on his own and meets some colorful characters along the way. His parents don’t know where he is. He eventually ends up in the frozen tundra of Alaska, where he starves to death inside an old bus.

The book is excellent, as is everything Krakauer has written. It orginally started in 1993 as an article for Outside Magazine (great publication, by the way) and grew into the book. Last month, Outside ran a cover story on the making of the movie (directed by Sean Penn). Check it out. Read the articles. It’s worth your time. (And to add a connection to a post from about a month ago, Harrod and Funck even wrote a song about the story.)

The movie’s website is well-designed. It’s attractive and has all the info you could want. The photos are breath-taking, the movie looks epic, with gorgeous cinematography, good music and an outstanding cast. Click on “video” to watch the trailer — you’ll be moved and want to see it (although it’s rated R, so don’t just go see it blindly). The family is even on board with the movie.

But here’s the thing. As fascinating and intriguing as the story is, as well-made as the movie is, as much as it raises questions that are worth talking about, they’re ending up in the wrong place. You’ll hear a lot about the human spirit, about freedom, about finding yourself, about looking for truth. Chris McCandless will be painted as an example, someone we should emulate.

But he ends up starved to death in a bus in the middle of nowhere.

He didn’t find what he was looking for. His journey didn’t lead him to the promised land. One of the taglines on the website says, “Two years he walks the earth. Ultimate freedom.” No, it wasn’t. For him, it was ultimate destruction. I suppose he could truly have found Christ, but there’s really not much evidence of that.

There’s one source of truth, one place we can turn for the answers we need. It’s not inside of ourselves and it’s not “out there” in the wild somewhere. We find truth in the Son of God who gave his life for ours on a cross. It’s in his Word. It’s in his life and death. And if we don’t turn there, we’ll end up just like Christopher McCandless: dying alone, with no hope.

That’s the message of the story. That’s why it’s worth reading and watching.

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