Finding Fulfillment, Joy in Nature

April 19, 2017

With Earth Day approaching, Charlotte Brisley ’18 shares her thoughts on finding fulfillment and joy in nature during Chapel.

The following text was written by Charlotte Brisley ’18 and shared with the Shattuck-St. Mary’s community at Chapel on Tuesday, April 18. 


Man emulates Earth. Earth emulates Heaven. Heaven emulates The Way. The Way Emulates Nature.” This quotation by Henry David Thoreau signifies the importance of us as humans to maintain a personal connection to the natural world around us.

Recently in AP English Lang classes, we finished the book Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer, which tells the controversial story of a young man named Chris McCandless, who turned to nature in his pursuit of finding purpose in life. After graduating from college, Chris donated approximately $25,000, money that was left in his account for graduate school, to charity. He set out to explore the West with little other than the clothes on his back and eventually found himself in the middle of countless life-changing adventures. From paddling down the Colorado River, and camping out under the stars, to exploring the vast deserts of Nevada and Arizona, Chris developed and strengthened his bond with nature, which further led him to discover more about himself as a person.

Chris craved this sense of closeness to the Earth, not only to quench his desire for the ultimate adventure but also to personally challenge himself. He eventually hiked into the unforgiving wilderness of the Alaskan Bush, in an attempt to prove to himself that he could sustain off of nature alone. The complete isolation from any trace of human civilization forced Chris to focus solely on the beautiful world he lived in and forget all about the petty worries associated with his old city lifestyle. This experience made Chris think hard on what really matters in life. His time in nature seemed to have transformed him from an overly confident and egocentric individual to a person who cared deeply for others. It was not until he was secluded in the wilderness that he finally realized that “Happiness is only real when shared.” Finally, after many months of wandering throughout the West, Chris decided to leave. He made the long hike back to where his Alaskan endeavor began, only to find that the mild river he crossed on the way into the bush had turned into a series of raging rapids. He decided to return to the abandoned, old bus where he had been staying and wait it out.   

Then, unfortunately, after reading books on edible plants, Chris was severely misled by a particular plant species. It is assumed that Chris died from eating seeds that were full of a strong neurotoxin that inhibited his ability to hunt and gather food. Hence, starvation ensued.

While some people view Chris’s ambition to find meaning in his life through nature as naive and foolish, it is important to note that living a typical, conforming life was not enough for Chris. So while he may have died earlier than he would have had he stayed home, it is safe to say that this typical lifestyle would simply not have satisfied Chris, no matter how many years he lived. Instead, Chris made the brave decision to find himself through his interaction with nature which led him to find true fulfillment and joy, as well as bring him to realize what he wanted out of life.  

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