The American Heritage college defines transcendentalism as a literary and philosophical movement asserting the existence of an ideal spiritual reality transcending the empirical and knowable through intuition. In simpler words, transcendentalism is that the belief that the individual should understand nature and the reasoning behind experience. Throughout Thoreau’s writings and Jon Krakauer’s Investigative journal Into the Wild there are many different perspectives on transcendentalism. Transcendentalism is a philosophy that one should not live by because it has poor mental effects, and cuts off all human connections
Human connections are the basis for living a healthy life. One reason transcendentalism is something one should not live by is because it ruins human relationship. It is said that the best way to become a transcendentalist is to sacrifice everything and form a relationship with nature and what is around you. In Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild Chris McCandless drops everything to go off into the wilderness and live alone. Everyone told him it was a bad idea, but he did it anyways because it was what he needed to do. Chris is a transcendentalist in a way. He believes that freedom is within and that nature is more important than family and money, but at the same time he embarks on his journey not just to analyze nature as a whole, but to look within himself and his soul. Throughout his journey McCandless slowly cuts off all human relationships, loses interest in material goods and begins to embrace spirituality. At first he disconnects from his family. Along his journey he begins to have very short and meaningless conversations with people he meets along the way so he wouldn’t make any new connections. While Chris is on his journey he writes a letter to Ron Franz saying, “you are wrong if you think joy emanates only… from human relationships. God has placed it all around us… all you have to do is reach for it” (57). When Chris says this he is addressing that Joy is not solely based on interactions with others. While that is true, they are a core necessity for living a healthy life. Being able to have a healthy relationship is a very important skill. Without making connections and bonds people would not be able to see who they are.
Living a transcendentalist lifestyle is very risky and is a bad idea because without the proper skills, could cause death. Throughout Chris’s journey, he faces many near death experiences. Upon his return from the Mojave Desert he is freakishly skinny. Chris doesn’t have any of the skills needs to survive alone for a long time. Chris’s issue is that he expects too much of himself or as Krakauer says, “He demanded much of himself, more, in the end than he could deliver “(184). Chris does not have what it takes to live as a transcendentalist for the rest of his life. It is extremely difficult and unhealthy for a person to live completely alone, especially when the skills needed aren’t there. When one chooses to lead a transcendentalist lifestyle they don’t get to see the way society evolves. Although Thoreau’s experience in Waldens pond was successful, it isn’t the smartest or most ideal way to live. He says “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” (Life in the Woods). Thoreau goes to Waldens pond to build a new life away from the government so he can see what nature has to offer. There is only so much one can learn from being a transcendentalist. Nature has many skills and ideals that it can teach but at a certain point one has to reintegrate themselves into society to really gain the techniques needed to succeed.
All in all transcendentalism is an ideal that people should not live by because it cuts off all human connections and can cause death. Jon Krakauer’s investigative journal, Into the Wild is one example that shows how truly detrimental it can be. Although Thoreau’s experience in Waldens Pond was successful, it doesn’t make transcendentalism the right way to live. Human connections are essential to a healthy lifestyle along with keeping one out of lethal consequences.