“What if I were smiling and running into your arms? Would you see then what I see now?” thinks Chris, just moments before his death, in the movie ‘Into the wild’.
Not being able to ‘see’ what others see is the cause for so much of unhappiness in our lives. A lot of conflicts can be resolved by a little empathy, understanding. While we see very clearly what we ourselves see, we do not really try to see what others see. My guess is, even if Chris would have run to his father’s arms, smiling, it still would not have been ‘happily ever after’. After the initial joy of rediscovering each other melts away, the conflicts resume.
However, ‘smiling and running into the arms’ is still a useful first step – because the choice between hating and forgiving is often the most important step in our lives. Chris hated his parents – he held them responsible for his miserable childhood. A childhood that taught him that beauty can be found only in nature, not in human relationships. So in quest of that beauty he sets out – leaving family, friends and all other attachments. He wants to go to Alaska – where the nature is tranquil, where nothing would disturb the harmony of his mind. Far from the madding crowd, far from the selfish agendas of petty people, far from the daily conflicts of society.
On his way he meets an assortment of interesting people. Some are on the same quest to find peace. Some others advise him that he is on the wrong path. He is loved by most of those people he meets. They all miss him terribly when he moves on. But he does move on, because he knows the truth about human relationships – that in the end, it all turns bitter. Or so he thinks.
He reaches Alaska. In the lap of nature, life is beautiful for a while. Slowly, the basic survival needs rear their ugly head. But there is one need he feels much more strongly than even basic survival needs. That is the need for company, the need to share. ‘Happiness is only real when shared’ – he writes in his journal just before his death.
This realisation, which runs contrary to all that he believed in the past, leads to the final, beautiful line of the film – “What if I were smiling and running into your arms? Would you see then what I see now?” He wants others to see that truth which he realised at the cost of his life. His voyage away from human relationships, his journey which was spurred by a hatred of his parents – finally leads him to a truth which is exactly the opposite of what he originally expected to find. Forgiving instead of hatred. Sharing rather than a lonely existence.
Sadly, Chris could not live his life according to this realisation, but maybe we can.