Happiness is Only Real When Shared
Chris McCandless was a young man with a promising future who turned his back on the world to pursue a journey of self-discovery on a solo adventure deep into the wilderness of rugged Alaska. In the early 90’s, Chris’ journey led him to the now infamous, “Bus #142”, an old abandoned vehicle eroding on the side of a rugged dirt road known as Stampede Road. Chris arrived in the spring after crossing a river. He spent two months reading, exploring and living off the land.
He realized after several weeks alone in the wilderness, that he was in over his head and decided to head back home, but was confronted by the river he crossed in the spring had now swelled and was impassable. He was stuck with no way to make contact with the outside world. He returned to the bus where he slowly starved to death. When his body was finally discovered, a diary was found amongst his personal affects. The diary revealed the details of Chris’ journey to include his thoughts that chronicled his mental and spiritual transformation as a result of his journey. In one particular entry he noted one simple statement, “Happiness is only real when shared.”
His life is chronicled in the movie, Into the Wild. The movie retraces his journey and the people Chris met along the way. In the end, Chris found himself alone and isolated. As his life slipped away, he realized that loneliness is the saddest human condition. He found Alaska to be beautiful and marveled at its landscape, but only had his thoughts and diary to share his experiences. It was in those moments that he discovered the true meaning of happiness, that it must be shared to be real.
When I think of Chris dying alone, I wander what his thoughts were as he took his last breath. Was he afraid? Did he think of someone in particular? Was he thinking of God? Was it painful? Was it worth it? We only have his diary as our window into his soul and it revealed a young man in search of happiness only to find that it resides in the presence of another as he died alone far from any other soul to comfort him.
Happiness is an elusive emotion, but when a moment of happiness does occur, do you find that you look for someone to share it with? Why is that? I think it’s a survival instinct, for happiness is like food for the soul and is necessary in order to thrive as human beings.
Have you ever experienced a gorgeous sunset only to be filled with regret that no one was there to see it with you? I find that when I reunite with close friends and family we often reminisce about happy times. It’s a way to remind ourselves of our blessings. My wife may remind me of a happy moment I had forgotten, and I smile at the rediscovered memory. In fact, I find that most of my happiest moments always included others.
One of my first thoughts when my sister died was the realization that our shared happy moments died with her, and that I lost the ability to share those moments with her. Those happy memories swim in my head, but over time they fade away because my sister is no longer around to remind me of them. Eventually those shared memories became less real to me and slowly slip from my consciousness, because in the end, we need each other to retain our humanity and the ability to revive the happy moments that sustain us and remind us of how blessed we really are in our lives. I believe the word “alone” is the saddest word, which is why I’m so happy to have strong and healthy relationships with my family and a network of close friends with tons of shared experiences.
So how “real” is your life? It’s only as real as the relationships you share. Appreciate the ones you share your life with and don’t take them for granted. Chris McCandless died in that realization. Don’t allow a crisis to force you to realize how important your loved ones are to you. Cultivate your relationships and hold onto those happy moments and keep them alive with the ones you love. What are some of your happiest moments? More importantly, who did you share them with?