Column: Longing to belong


I sat under the cover of a massive cedar tree on top of a steep hill hidden from Google Earth satellites, hoping a deer will walk within bow range.

After five days of exploring “Walden” with my Adventure Literature classes, it was no surprise that Thoreau’s words blew in on me after half an hour of seeing nothing but squirrels.

Transcendentalism is often oversimplified to where it’s about being a nonconformist and heading into the woods — which people like Chris McCandless did and, maybe thanks to the tone of the book “Into the Wild,” achieved almost hero status among ideological teenagers and young adults dissatisfied with the prospect of, or actual adulthood. The great irony, both of my classes decided, was how dependent (through hitchhiking, friendliness and kindness) McCandless was on the society he decided to leave, once he left it. A nonconformist who abandoned his vehicle will need a conformist if he wants to get around.

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