Over the past few weeks we here at Idealize LA have taken a deeper look into the ethical duty and moral obligation we as humans feel we have to the earth and its well-being. We have heard theories and pondered concepts that have been on the minds of environmentalist since the beginning of time. Recently a few of us have been reading “A Sand County Almanac” and “Into the Wild,” and contemplating the perspectives on an age-old dilemma – the frustrations of modern society, and the draw to the natural beauty found in the wild. Aldo Leopold (A Sand County Almanac) tells an endearing story and gives detailed accounts of natures simplicity along with all its overlooked complexities. The enthusiasm and devotion to nature bleeds through Leopold’s writing and gives his audience a new perspective on something we have been over-looking for far too long. Krakauer’s Into the Wild is comparably moving but in a different light. His description of McCandless, the main character, leaves readers inspired to take a leap of faith into the unknown, but also reprehensive of what dangers may lurk outside our comfortable city dwellings. Both stories share themes of the wonderful essence of nature and its stimulation to the human complex.
I will begin this post with a look into the curious mind of McCandless in Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild.” I was introduced to this book a few years back by a good friend of mine and was instantly inspired. As a reader I could relate to McCandless, and his disconnection to societal norms. For society has created a machine, which incorporates economics, education, politics and entertainment, and leaves little interest too much more than that. But for many of us this does not suffice, for we have a greater purpose and a greater desire for something more meaningful. And to me, McCandless choice to live off the grid was a response to the calling for change that lingers in all of us. Knowing he could not influence the masses to live a lifestyle which he deemed acceptable, and fulfilling, he decided to separate himself and lead this journey alone. A brave but potentially foolish endeavor thought by most, McCandles set off on an inspiring journey into the wild that has inspired many like me to look further into the cause and reasoning of such an act.
I believe the main characters experience was for the purpose of his own self-discovery and self-reasoning, but captured in Krakauer’s book are lessons that can be shared with the world. McCandless fed up mentality with the monotony of the American lifestyle is evident, and his rebirth of consciousness is captured in this quote from the book. “A trancelike state settles over your efforts; the climb becomes a clear-eyed dream. Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence—the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes—all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose and by the seriousness of the task at hand.” (Krakauer: 142-143) To me this shows him escaping the enslaved mind we are accustomed to, which thinks and operates purely on minuscule and irrelevant thoughts. It shows a cleansing of the mind, and reconnection with the roots of creation and existence, and not all this petty rubbish we get distracted by.
In “A Sand County almanac” Leopold focuses on more selfless ideas, and a plea for education and understanding of the human and nature coexistence. In this quote Aldo makes a thoughtful jab at modern conceptualization of nature and its relationship and purpose to man. “Ability to see the cultural value of wilderness boils down, in the last analysis, to a question of intellectual humility. The shallow-minded modern who has lost his rootage in the land assumes that he has already discovered what is important; it is such who prate of empires, political or economic, that will last a thousand years. It is only the scholar who appreciates that all history consists of successive excursions from a single starting-point, to which man returns again and again to organize yet another search for a durable scale of values. It is only the scholar who understands why the raw wilderness gives definition and meaning to the human enterprise” (Leopold: 200-201). I think what Aldo is also alluding to is that as humans we set off on conquest for meaning and understanding. That is why we have constructed numerous religious systems, and why we associate to groups who seem to have the answer. But as we recklessly go through our lives in a confused and chaotic manner, in search for answers, we tend to overlook them. Nature is the key and the almanac to the answers and meaning we have been longing for. Not clearly written out like the commandments of the bible, but more of an unspoken understanding between man, nature, and the existence we are partaken in each and every day.
Both stories tell a similar tale of ethical obedience to nature and our surroundings. McCandles accounts are a bit more for self-discovery in my opinion while Leopold’s is essentially education for humans and their relationship to nature. They both share inspiring ideas and concepts that should not fall on deaf ears, for this topic is pertinent and something to be taken very seriously in our day and age. No matter what story moves you to take action, they both serve purpose to make a change ethically, morally, and physically.
Check these books out for yourself at let us know what you think.