Happiness Only Real

Monday 21 September 2009 One of many memorable nights in the Pub - with Jolene and Colin and Chanti, usually - our wonderings took us to the topic of Christopher McCandless. Was what he did insane? We didn't think so. But whether it was overtly selfish was another question. By no means did we find an answer; that wasn't the point at all. A few brews took our questions further toward the "Alexander Supertramps" of our time, and undoubtedly toward the ones within ourselves. We confronted the young man in tears. We were his parents and begged to understand why his adventure so included our insult. When did we become the monarchy deserving of uprising? We were his sister, loving him and missing him and resenting him and wanting an older brother. We were the media and we were the public, "knowing" that what he did was simply young idiocy or worse, the foisting of wisdom by a weidler of of folly. We were the ones he met along his path to Alaska, the ones with smiles which treasured his words, the ones that saw him briefly decorate their horizon, the ones that scampered their fingers to the fragile edge of his letters, the ones that loved and envied but lacked and so longed for his courage. And then we were ourselves, upright and skeptical in front of this wanderer, and then were were him, knowing simultaneously the desires that called us to the countryside and the elements of society we couldn't stand to be near any longer. None of us, I don't think, was so far from an Alaskan adventure of our own. All of us understood what it was to sense misbelonging, to sense that at some point you left or were taken from the environment you were meant for, that suddenly your quiet corner of the world was screaming with distraction and clutter and was now entirely uninhabitable, a paradigm that excluded you altogether. And all of us had felt the power of the push, were sometimes pretty sure that the only reservations we harbored toward abandoning settled life were the conversations we sought in that settled life - that the four of us were in college, a place set apart for "learning and experience". We chased sunsets atop steeds we didn't pay for; we decried the stoicism of the settled masses in a Pub paid for by the predictability, consistency, and dependability of settled lives. We knew it wasn't as easy as burning your pocket cash, as good as that might feel. Our tiny community of mutual understanding made survival possible without pilgrimage to the Yukon. Our community defeated the efforts of inanimate ubiquity to divide us; in our circle in the balcony of a small college bar, we found something akin to whatever McCandless felt, starving in his bus, the day he jotted, "HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED." It wasn't enough, though, of course. We'd gather, toting the week's baggage, trying to completely leave behind the class we'd just finished, buy our beers and wait eagerly for the others. Our shared experience of "the outside" bound us up together, we'd looked at the world from afar - by ourselves - enough that when we descrbibed it aloud to one another our descriptions sounded familiar, and piecewise we built a common image of our combined realities, one not perfectly shared by any means, but one with reference points, an understanding we built where we could remember, together, something that only happened to one of us, a strange empathy that told us "despite all the evidence to the contrary, you're not alone, and more importantly, you do not have to depend on solitude to find meaning, depth, happiness."

1 comment:

  1. thank you for putting this into words my friend.
    I could not have done it the justice that you have accomplished here. I didn't know that this existed and it absolutely made my day to to stumble upon it now. we need to talk.