Sunday, January 01, 2006

Wilderness Outings

This morning I went for a brief hike. It was brief because I'm a lazy, lazy woman and am in deplorable shape. I would enjoy hiking more if I remembered to take some allergy medication before going. Darn pine trees.

This afternoon, I finished reading Into the Wild, another journalistic book by Jon Krakauer. The author kept trying to keep his readers from simply viewing the book's subject, a dead vagabond who called himself "Alexander Supertramp," as a dreamy man-child with a fatal lack of common sense, but in my case this ultimately failed. First of all, a reasonably intelligent person would not go into the bush in Alaska without sufficient supplies and a good map. Second, a college graduate of twenty-three should be beyond the sort of self-indulgent romanticization of ignorance that would lead you to do so intentionally. (And what kind of person obsesses over The Call of the Wild well into his twenties? Didn't we all read that in grade school? )

If the young man in question had survived his Alaskan experience, it seems possible that he might have reverted to the plan he considered during his college years at Emory: going to Harvard Law School. With a halfway decent LSAT, he probably would have been admitted; admissions committees love weird stories. I can only imagine what an insufferable experience 1L classes with Alexander Supertramp would have been. We had several similar personalities while I was there, and while I never wished any of them had disappeared into the wild, at times it was a close thing.

Addendum: one thing that struck me while reading Into the Wild was how unavailable "Alex's" experience would be to a young woman. The only bad things that ever happened to Alex were environmental: hunger, extremes of temperature, turbulent seas. Could a female version of Alex have successfully hitchhiked cross-country, rode the rails and confronted railroad bulls, crossed the border illicitly, and obtained manual labor jobs as an itinerant without ever coming to harm at the hands of strangers? For those who end the book with respect for Alex's values and experiences, what does it mean for this path to enlightment to be unavailable to women due to the high chance of violence?
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