Appreciating Nature Like A Modern Man

Into the Wild has ruined me – and every collegiate male, to be quite honest – in the sense that all I want to do is reconnect/connect for the first time ever with nature. Living in a suburb of Houston for the bulk of my life, and going off to school near Austin, I have never really had the chance to establish a relationship with the beauty of God’s creation. The only connections I have ever really made are with Apple products and shortcut routes to the nearest Target.

To those unfamiliar with the story, Into the Wild is a biographical book/movie about a young man, Christopher McCandless i.e. Alexander Supertramp, who abandoned all modern-day comforts and responsibilities to venture to Alaska and live off the land in solitude. Once arriving at his destination, it wasn’t long before he misread the signs of nature and the sheer power of the wild elements that he died.

For as long as I can remember, my goals in life have been centered on moving to a metropolis city, the complete antithesis of nature. I have wanted to be surrounded by mountains of steel and iron. I’ve wanted to hear the siren sound of subway cars instead of the gentle whisper of a brook.  I have yearned for the call of booming ringtones instead of the call of the wild. But, as college graduation is a yearlong memory now, the search for the correct job is a constant nuisance, and struggling with the balance of responsibility and living life to the fullest is at the forefront of my mind, I can’t help feeling that my inner Grizzly Adams is chanting to be released.

They say that what every man wants to do in life is to prove himself as a man. For me, I feel like in order to do that I have to take a page from Alexander Supertramp’s diary and abandon all the materialistic things of this world and set forth on a journey into the aforementioned wild. Nature would surely teach me what it means to survive in the world. The world right now for me is one I’ve saturated with Gmail updates, Café Americanos, GQ subscriptions and concrete dinner plans for a Saturday night. I can’t remember the last time that I went over an hour without looking at my iPhone or using some sort of modern technology to alleviate the boredom that festers during any moment of downtime. The wild seems to be some exotic state of enlightenment that is incredibly hard to reach these days, nonetheless pursue. We seem so concerned with Instagramming the perfect brunch picture, that the food we’re about to intake is of no importance – it’s the number of likes that that Instagram will procure! Is this the new mindset of the modern man, or is growth and “manliness” stored in a CamelBak awaiting its journey that may never come?

I know that abandoning all worldly responsibility isn’t so much of an option for me right now – I can barely afford to pay rent each month. We can’t all lead the simplistic life that the granola Supertramps and Bon Ivers of the world coo and preach. But still, is this a possibility? Has the modern man abandoned all hope of ever being able to return back to the wild? Has evolution moved so far ahead that there is no chance of ever turning back? Will the story of Mr. Supertramp simply be regarded as a fantastical film in the Walmart DVD bin, or will it be remembered as a historical coup in the evolution of the modern man? Whatever the case, for now I’ll have to settle for envisioning myself vicariously through the ill-fated Supertramp; Urbanized Texas is far from the wild, unless you count Whole Foods on a Sunday evening.

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  • Nikki Brooke Alden

    Love this article. This book/movie ruined this collegiate female as well. Somewhere around sophomore year I had the urge to leave college and hitchhiking to Alaska (not thinking about the fact that McCandless DIES while doing this). I think this was more of a wanting to get out of going to any and all math and science classes that semester. I now know I would have not succeeded in being a vagabond but still dream of doing this at times.

  • Christie Walker

    Well-spoken, Mr. Wilburn. I remember, after watching that movie for the first time, how bitter I felt about society and my life. And, still, I get jealous when I see someone’s Instagram feed of their trip to the wilderness (aka. a swanky ski lodge) and I’m stuck here at a desk, 9-5. But you brought up a good point about people’s expectation of affirmation via social media rather than obtaining peace and peace of mind by spending time alone in reflection in the great outdoors. But going all Supertramp is just not doable for most people because, not only do we have responsibilities for ourselves, we have people who are counting on us, people who love us and people we love. I could never, ever leave that. But, maybe we’ll all just escape the daily grind together?

  • Niko Lina

    This is why I enjoy horse riding in the woods. It’s just you and the horse and nothing else. You can’t even look at your phone all the time because you need to pay attention to what happens around you. Sure, it’s not “living off nature” but it’s the best cure for daily struggles, you’re outside and you’re connected to the animal. (I know, not everyone can afford horses, so can’t I but if you ask around, you’ll always find a horse owner who doesn’t have the time to take care of their horse every day and is happy to have someone who rides it once or twice a week.)

  • Sarah Maetche

    Right on! But one thing- although Mr. Supertramp does seek solitude and connection with nature, in the end he realizes that all the amazing experiences he has in the wild are pointless if they are not shared with another human-being. Mr. Supertramp would have lived if he had brought along a companion into the wilderness to keep him sane and from eating those berries.

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