Category: Creating & Presenting

The Inner World – the undiscovered terrain

As I’ve been reading Into the Wild, I’ve had a strong sense that McCandless’ journeys through the physical landscapes of North America were a means of searching an inner landscape that he yearned to explore. In this blog piece, Looking for Another Country, Dwight Longenecker writes that:

C.S. Lewis names this longing with the German word sehnsucht. He calls it “the inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what.” At the end of Pilgrim’s Regress he said it was, “That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.”

This longing remains dormant in daily life until it is sparked by a profound aesthetic experience. Suddenly the soul awakes, and the longing is fleetingly fulfilled. C.S. Lewis called this surge in the heart, this uplift “Joy”. This painfully exquisite joy comes unbidden and echoes in his heart like the sounding of the distant horn of a long lost hero. 

McCandless was obviously deeply unsatisfied with a life that was unfulfilling. He went in search of the experience that would awaken his soul. 

But how does one step into the inner landscape and discover what awaits there?

For the writer Pico Iyer, his first step was to spend time in a Catholic hermitage, where he was able to discover that stepping away from the tumult of the modern world inevitably helped him to be a better person. For more on this, read Krista Tippett’s “The Inner World is a great, undiscovered terrain.

McCandless’ pilgrimage into the wild was perhaps a way to find a place where his existence made sense, and to find a place where he could become a better person. His journal entries reveal that he was captivated by the notion of truth. He was awed by the landscape through which he travelled. Omir Safi, in a piece title “Cherishing Rough Edges over Smoothness“, writes:

We connect to nature because we are nature. It is us. It is around us. We are inside her. When we are most un-natural is when we see ourselves as cut off.

Those of us who have not heard the call of the wild that McCandless obviously did still struggle to understand his reasons and motivations for doing what he did. We fail to understand the terrain he felt compelled to discover. We fail to hear the call.

respond to the call

Into the Wild is a reminder that we all have a untouched wilderness inside ourselves. What will happen if we try to understand “the inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what”?


Following the breadcrumbs…

Below are some links to articles/pieces/ideas that have something to say about ‘going wild’.

The more you read, the more connections you will make as you work through ‘Into the Wild’. The text that I’ve copied way down below is about the desert and what it can symbolise – as soon as I read it, I thought of Chris in the desert, finding the oh-so-hot-springs, and the friend he made, Ron Franz. As I kept following this thread, I found this quote: Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, ‘We are all travelers in what John Bunyan calls the wilderness of this world. And the best that we find in our travels is an honest friend – they keep us worthy of ourselves.’” Ron Franz was certainly an honest friend.

This then led me to Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (which is mentioned by McCandless), and then to Mark Twains’ An Innocent Abroad, and then to CS Lewis, who wrote A Pilgrim’s Regress, in which he wrote: “You all know,” said the Guide, “that security is mortals’ greatest enemy.” In an instant, I thought of McCandless’ letter to Ron (p58) in which he wrote: “..but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.”

This doesn’t necessarily make a context piece, but it starts the cogs turning. It’s allows me to visualise/imagine a landscape (a desert?) in which someone seeks to let go of the security that binds and blinds us. Where could this take me?

What about this for a big idea: People often seek new experiences in wild landscapes in order to escape the grip of the modern world.

THIS IS THE THINKING I WANT YOU TO START ATTEMPTING…follow the breadcrumbs of a thought. Let them mull in your mind. Nurture them into ideas. Shape them into a piece of writing.

As you read through these pieces below, start to make the active connections between the words of these texts and the words of John Krakauer.

“…this Valley is a solitary place. The Prophet Jeremiah thus describes it: A wilderness, a land of deserts and pits, a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, a land that no man (but a Christian) passeth through, and where no man dwelt.”” – John Bunyan – The Pilgram’s Progress

Wandering in the desert

From: Imagery and Sybolism in Counselling – William Stewart.

Be Happy: Leunig, Authenticity & Reality

Happy Clappy

Each time we discuss illusion and reality we return to the notion that money and success will not automatically lead to happiness. Which is all fine and well…but what, then, does lead to happiness?

Be Happy, an article on ‘Less Wrong’, which describes itself as a ‘blog community devoted to refining the art of human rationality’, brings together, in a nutshell, some thoughts on Materialism and being happy.

Cheerful to a Fault, by Alfie Kohn who writes widely on human behavior, education, and parenting, explores the negative implications of always being positive and cheerful. It echoes Leunig’s feelings in Lest We Forget: in “nicey-nicey land you must be happy-clappy and positive all the time – bad news is taboo.”

Prompts for Whose Reality?

On the website VCE Study Guides I found a list of the different types of prompts you could expect to encounter.

What you should be working towards is getting together a generic essay that you can shape to fit any of the prompt types. Look at the prompts within the groups and work out the approaches you could take for the different types.

Experiencing reality

  1. Our reality is always changing.
  2. Reality is never fact but fiction.
  3. We are defined by our reality.
  4. Our perspective is always subjective.
  5. Both reality and imagination help our understanding of the world and ourselves.
  6. The reality we create is unique to our own experiences.
  7. Reality is subject to our  interpretations.
  8. Reality can be both subjective and objective.
  9. It is through a significant event that our reality changes.
  10. Our realities are formed by our opinions and beliefs.
  11. Reality forces us to act in extraordinary ways.
  12. When we face the truth, we need to be ready to face pain and suffering.
  13. People have varied reactions and responses to things because of their different realities.
  14. Reality is what we want to see, not what we have to see.
  15. Reality is based on the people and experiences we encounter.

Our reality in relation to others

  1. Our reality is never our own, but  influenced by others.
  2. No two realities are identical.
  3. Sometimes we lose ourselves in the reality of others.
  4. We cannot escape the world that others create.
  5. Accepting the reality of others is easier than accepting our own.
  6. Conflict occurs as a result of different realities.
  7. Some people manipulate others by distorting reality.
  8. One event can produce multiple  realities.
  9. Only through multiple perspectives can we understand reality.
  10. Some events influence our reality more significantly than others.
  11. Our reality can impact others positively or negatively.
  12. The realities of two people are drastically different.


  1. What we chose to remember and forget shapes our reality.
  2. Our memories distort our current reality.
  3. Memories help us maintain a grip on reality.
  4. Mixing memory and reality helps  reality.
  5. Some people suppress memories in order to cope with reality.
  6. Memories are the source of our  illusions.
  7. We can change our dreams to become our reality.
  8. Our memories teach us how to deal with  reality.

Dealing with reality

  1. We create illusions in order to cope with reality.
  2. Illusions are safe while realities are cruel.
  3. Truth is always more powerful than imagination.
  4. Distorting reality can result in both good and bad.
  5. What separates truth from fiction is our perspective.
  6. Illusions have the power to conceal reality but can never erase it.
  7. In the end, we are always forced to face reality.
  8. Illusions are created both intentionally and unintentionally.
  9. Reality and illusion are never dichotomous.
  10. Escaping into illusion is weak while facing reality is courageous.
  11. Illusions are created as a result of our disappointments and failures.
  12. Fantasies are how we create a world of success and happiness.
  13. Without illusion, reality is too difficult to confront.
  14. We cannot be forced to confront the truth; we must be willing to.
  15. What is real and fiction is irrelevant, merely what we want to believe.