Yesterday while looking for and recording quotes about joy, I ran across the following by Christopher McCandless. This one hit me hard and stopped me in my tracks:
“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit.”
Christopher McCandless grew up in well-to-do Fairfax, Virginia. His family was financially well-off, his parents and sister loved him, and he was on track to have a successful career after graduating from college.
He really wanted for nothing.
Well, except for one thing.
After years of observing his parents and the parents of his friends, what Christopher came to value most was freedom — freedom from the trap of excess. Freedom from having to work to maintain a certain standard of living. Freedom from the debt so many incur in the pursuit of that standard of living. Freedom from striving, always striving, to earn more and buy more and keep more.
Chris saw that while financial wealth buys financial security, we can become so fearful of losing our security that we end up miss out on living a life that brings us real joy.
Chris desperately wanted a lifestyle of being unattached to and free from the fear of losing material wealth and security. He didn’t want to become enslaved by the effort needed to accumulate and then hold on to material goods and assets. As soon as he graduated from college, he abandoned the pursuit of financial success and headed to Alaska to try to live as simple a life as possible.
Once there, he became even more aware of how controlled we are by money. He decided to stop working and live completely off the land, far from civilization, with only the very barest of essentials.
I won’t tell you how Chris’s story unfolded.
But I often wonder if he ever regretted his decision to run so far from the “trap” of security.
Or did his simple, debt-free, money-free life of adventure — even with all the hardships he suffered — bring him such a great measure of joy, he would choose the adventure again?