8: “Beyond Confusion” (Jon Krakauer)

“Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.” -Robert Frost
“The body is prevented from turning what it eats into a source of usable energy.”
        -a description of swainsonine poisoning in Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild

         Into the Wild tells the story of Chris McCandless, a questing young man who set out to find the wilderness, himself, and a more real way of living. His journey ended in Alaska in 1992. He starved to death, but Krakauer argues that Chris didn’t run out of food: he was poisoned by a rare mold growing on the seeds he ate. The mold stopped his metabolism from processing glycoproteins. He starved while eating.
         Some months ago, I talked about Chris’s story with a friend who is a doctor. “What a powerful metaphor,” he said. “Maybe all the illnesses I’ve seen were in part an inability to process certain nutrients.” We are hungry for so much: friendship nourishes us, as does good, hard work, and hope, and passion. But sometimes we cannot seem to eat the “food” in our community: that’s why Chris left his affluent home, and set his face to the wild.
         “Drink and be whole again beyond confusion,” says Frost. He doesn’t say the confusions will be solved: we’ll slip beyond them, because there is so much of the world to drink in. Like Chris, I sometimes struggle to find nutrition I need in the food, in the world, that is real before me. (I think it can be important to move, to find another place where you are fed; it can also be important to recognize that there’s food all around you). Like Chris I sometimes find energy in the mountains and the skies.
         Chris wrote a last entry in his journal. He must have known then that he was about to die. It’s only two words: “BEAUTIFUL BLUEBERRIES.” He can’t have thought that the blueberries would be enough to save him. He knew about calories, and besides, that’s not what beautiful means. Beautiful just means beautiful. Whatever else was coming, he saw that. Eating he starved, but perhaps, starving, he was brilliant enough to still be fed by the gleam and the burst and the beauty of the blueberries.
         We will all die. We will all be hungry, for food or for love. And yet I know where there are creeks flowing not far away from my house.
         Drink, and be whole again. Beyond confusion.

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