English R1 B
“The desert is the environment of revelation, genetically and physiologically alien, sensorily austere,
esthetically abstract, historically inimical…To the desert go the prophets and hermits; through deserts go
pilgrims and exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values
of retreat, not to escape but to find reality.”- Paul Shepard
For centuries human beings have sought refuge in the forgotten corners of the globe.
There is a universal and timeless allure to these untouched places.
They offer a limitless and raw
terrain; an “escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations” (Page 15). In
1992, a young man from a privileged upbringing by the name of Chris McCandless joined this
ancient tradition of asceticism, abandoning his possessions, his family, and even his identity in a
“climatic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude [his] spiritual revolution”
(Page 163). There is a distinction, though, between escaping and seeking. Did McCandless leave
his home, possessions, and family as a means of shedding said “irksome obligations,” or, rather,
in an attempt to discover something, perhaps enlightenment? Was his journey the result of
restless teenage angst, or was he drawn to the wild with more romantic or even spiritual
intentions? It is impossible, of course, to reduce McCandless’ story to a mathematical equation.
He was no doubt affected by many shades of inspiration. However, I do believe that his tragedy
is representative of a more universal human urge for “an endlessly changing horizon,” the
abandonment of that which is comfortable or secure, and finally, a sense of spiritual awakening (page 57).
Therefore, I think we may benefit from comparing McCandless’ spiritual journey to those of certain