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To understand the magnitude of Chris' final realization you have to view it in the context of his life. Chris was not happy with his life so he decided to change it. In his search for happiness, Chris had left behind everyone he had ever cared about or who had ever cared about him.
After spending years living a life of total simplicity and solitude, Chris' final diary entry seems to show that he had a sudden realization. He wrote "Happiness only real when shared."
I think that for many people these final words are haunting because Chris had been trying to soak up life and happiness all on his own, then in the end he seemed to realize it had all been wasted. His happiness hadn't been real. For Chris this was a massive transformation in thinking, sadly it seems that it came to late.
Chris believes he is an "aesthetic voyager" and has traveled a road that has led him on a "spiritual pilgrimage." As such, he was a young man in search of himself, for his own identity. This rite of passage does lead to Chris's physical death. However, in his last note he writes: "I have had a happy life and thank the Lord." I would suggest that Chris was one of those people who had to travel beyond the everyday. His sacrifice for his lifestyle was leaving his family and facing his own death. Yet, he does become self-realized and believes that he has truly been a traveler on a journey of spiritual significance!
that nature is only a refuge for a short while, that true happiness can only be shared with others
This is all conjecture, on the part of the reader and Krakauer. We have McCandless' journal entries, but they provide an incomplete picture at best, and towards the end of his life, when he is suffering from injury and severe hunger, we don't know how sound his thinking is. I would think he learned some humility, I think he wanted to survive and so probably learned a healthy respect for life and nature. But I'm just guessing, and we'll really never know.
I have often thought about a life truly lived being one where you have no constraints; no getting up in the morning at exactly the same time; no going to work at exactly the same time; no coming back at the same time everyday; no following the same mundane routine day after day after day.
Agreed, without this we cannot have all the things that are considered essential, safety, extravagance, maybe even the constant company of a few people. But does life have to be a cliche?
I guess Chris thought in those lines when he destroyed Chris McCandles and became Alexander Supertramp. Why impending death suddenly made him feel that "Happiness only real when shared." , I cannot say.
If I were to personally take up the exact path he took and find myself just where he does, may be I would be able to answer this question. If what he seems to have realized is truly what life is, it just isn't possible for anyone to say.
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