Krakauer goes to some pains to debunk the notion that McCandless was some kind of transcendentalist, like Emerson or Thoreau. McCandless was not interested in theorizing about nature — he was interested in being in nature, in the work of survival. As Andrew Liske points out, McCandless‘s journal is “almost entirely about what he ate.” I think when you talk about “God” and ”nature” in connection to McCandless, it always comes down to what he did, rather than what he thought. In that sense he was truly a hermit, I suppose. His faith was expressed through his practice.
A great quote that shows this is from Chapter 16. It’s the part where Krakauer discusses McCandless’s reading of the “Higher Laws” chapter of Walden, in which Thoreau discusses the ethics of eating:
“YES,” wrote McCandless and, two pages later,
“Consciousness of food. Eat and cook with concentration... Holy Food.”
On the back pages of the book that served as his journal, he declared:
I am reborn. This is my dawn. Real life has just begun.
Deliberate Living: Conscious attention to the basics of life, and a constant attention to your immediate environment and its concerns, examples A job, a task, a book; anything requiring efficient concentration (Circumstance has no value. It is how one relates to a situation that has value. All true meaning resides in the personal relationship to a phenomenon, what it means to you).
The Great Holiness of FOOD, the Vital Heat.
Positivism, the Insurpassable Joy of the Life Aesthetic.
Absolute Truth and Honesty.
A very important theme in this book is the way that McCandless seeks to be self-reliant and he does everything he can to escape intimacy or dependence on others. This is shown in the way he leaves his family and the other people in his life as well that threaten to become too important for him, and thus would impede his goal of being only reliant on himself. Note how this is reflected in the following quote:
McCandless was thrilled to be on his way north, and he was relieved as well—relieved that he had again evaded the impending threat of human intimacy, of friendship, and all the messy emotional baggage that comes with it. He had fled the claustrophobic confines of his family. He’d successfully kept Jan Burres and Wayne Westerberg at arm’s length, flitting out of their lives before anything was expected of him. And now he’d slipped painlessly out of Ron Franz’s life as well.
The last person mentioned, Ron Franz, even offered to adopt Chris as his son, but even though this was a touching gesture, and it was clear that Chris felt a great deal for Ron, he saw this as an entanglement that would prevent him from living his Emersonian dream of being self-reliant. Chris's life is one long catalogue of seeking to avoid any kind of relationship that would hamper or hinder his efforts to be independent.
An excellent quote to support the theme of communicating with nature can be found when the author describes how he felt when he scaled the Devil's Thumb by himself in Alaska:
A trancelike state settles over your efforts; the climb becomes a clear-eyed dream. Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence—the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes—all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose and by the seriousness of the task at hand.
Note the way in which the author describes how he relates to nature first hand because of the proximity to nature and the way that every move has to be thought through very carefully in order to focus and concentrate his efforts on what he is doing in order to survive. What is particularly attractive is the "trancelike state" that Krakauer describes, and the way that the worries of everyday existence are completely lost when you are communicating and experiencing nature in such a vital and visceral way.