For as long as man has contemplated his/her own existence they have struggled to grasp the nature of human emotions. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle was one of the first to reduce the wide range of human emotions down to a list of six: happiness, surprise, fear, sadness, anger, and disgust. These emotions were then arranged in a circle. According to Aristotle all emotions are either directly on the wheel or a result of two or more emotions in combination. Like mixing primary colours: blue and yellow yields green. I would like to present that perhaps in certain people there exists a perfect balance of all the emotions which causes a seventh, and more powerful, emotion to form in the center of this philosophical circle: Restlessness. This powerful emotion is what drives many (some call them adventures, others call them crazy) to do things that the settled never even dream of. This restlessness is often born into people who seem on the outside to have everything that they could ever want, but a deeper emotion is boiling under the surface. Often it is perceived as an unknown need -something missing from that persons life. Take the epic hero Gilgamesh and the arguable just as epic adventurer Chris McCandless. Something had to drive this King and this upper-class man to forsake their comforts and strike out into the world. One may initial argue that these two characters can not be compared for the simple reason that McCandless was a real person driven by real human emotion where as Gilgamesh was a fictional character driven mainly by the Gods. However for the sake of this argument let us take Neitzche's stand on the well being of God: "God is dead". Or in this case perhaps 'Gods' is more appropriate. Who are we to say that Gilgamesh wasn't a real person and that his adventures were not true? Perhaps the only reason we do not have mystical beasts and Gods interfering with our lives is that the Gods have died and taken with them any of the mystical animals that we associate with ancient epics. Who is to say that the Hammurabi's bones didn't turn to dust when the Gods did? So for the sake of argument let us believe that Gilgamesh was moved by the same torrid of emotions that affected McCandless. The tale of Gilgamesh comes to us in bits and pieces since its only true record is preserved on clay tablets that are broken and incomplete. Even these are brought to us second hand by the story teller who made the tablets. In order to etch these tablets the story teller must have been an artist or at least in the presents of one. It is no secrete that artist are prone to exaggeration. So perhaps the tale that has come to us through the eons had more than one embellishment. Even in what we consider to be the 'true' tale of Chris McCandless is brought to us in an incomplete form of his writing and letters. Even these have been put together for us by a form of artist, a writer. This is not to say that the facts surrounding McCandless's journey were foolishly embellished, however the writer couldn't know the whole story or the emotions behind the events, and some guesses had to be made. As with Gilgamesh these events must be taken with a grain of salt and a willingness to believe. It is often said in journalism that the best stories are not the ones that address the 'how', 'where', or 'who', but the 'why'. The motivation behind a person's actions is the most challenging angle that any author or artist can ever face. Even in the case of when the author, Krakauer, was telling the story of his own climb of the Devil's Thumb the motivation was hard for him to describe, it was just this burning inside. Trying to deduce someone else motivation is even more difficult. However, I believe that in the cases of both McCandless and Gilgamesh the reasons behind their actions is brought back to the idea of restlessness. A feeling of restlessness is often described as an empty place in one's heart that simply can not be filled by their lifestyle. This can cause a great amount of mental anguish. I believe that this anguish is what causes people to drop everything they have and go on a journey. The mentality that leads to this is one of if the solution isn't at hand, then it must be somewhere, and they are going to find it -even if it kills them. Gilgamesh went in search of the purest cedar to make a better city for his people while McCandless went in search of an ideal of pure living to bring back to his family to make a better life for them. Gilgamesh at one point became ill with his need for adventure and challenge. He told his friend Enkidu: "I am weak, my arms have lost their strength, the cry of sorrow sticks in my throat, I am oppressed by idleness." Simply having no adventure to cut his teeth on was driving Gilgamesh insane. McCandless also realized that there was a very large world out there and so much to do in it. Simply spinning his wheels at home was no longer satisfying. To dispel the general malaise of restlessness they both set out on what seemed to everyone to be an impossible journey. The ideal of sharing and humanity was very strong in both adventurers. McCandless seemed to make instant friends with everyone in his path. They were more than willing to help and wished the traveler well. He seemed to have a certain level of charisma, probably stemming from his honesty, that drew people to him. In my heart I believe that McCandless had every intention of returning to if not the life at least the people he had left behind. He most likely wished to share the freedom that he had found out in the wilderness. Gilgamesh went out after the death of his best friend, Enkidu, to learn about life as well, and even better, how to preserve it forever. When he came into possession of the one flower that could bring eternal life he did not selfishly eat the plant his self, he wished to bring it back and share it with everyone. In a less magical way this is like when McCandless gave his money away to the famine relief. He had acquired a means to preserve life and he wished to share it with as many people as possible. Money for food many not seem as precious a gift as eternal life to the common man, but if one asked the starving man on the street if s/he would be eternal grateful for the former gift the answer would most certainly be a resounding 'yes'. The one thing that shows up as a stark contrast between Gilgamesh and McCandless is the idea of dependent friendship. Gilgamesh formed a very tight bond with Enkidu that at times bordered on a homosexual or sometimes on a Mother/Son type level. This ideal of friendship was so strong that when Enkidu died it practically destroyed Gilgamesh with grief. I don't mean by this that McCandless had no friends, quite the opposite in fact he seemed to make friends with everyone he met. However, none of these friendships seemed very deep. It almost seemed as if he made it a point to keep all people at a distance. Even though his father clearly favoured him Chris would never let the strong Father/Son bond form. After he learned of his father's relations with various women the chance for them to form such a relation became even less likely. Even beyond his own family it seemed that no one truly 'knew' him well enough to know what was going on inside his head or the reasons behind his fatal journey. As for the real reasons that he kept people and eventually civilization at a distance, all anyone can do is guess. Friendship and human contact is more important to the human psyche than many people realize. One of most shocking examples of the consequences of a lack of human contact was Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. Eastern State was constructed to help reform their inmates, but the design actually drove them insane. Each inmate was kept in absolute solitary to the point where if they were moved they wore black hoods and the prison workers we forbidden to speak. The idea was that the criminal would find their inner strength and connect with God. However the lack of contact cause a rash of insanity. Shortly after it's construction Eastern State was shut down for cruelty. It can still be seen as a tourist attraction. Charles Dickens visited the United States to see two sights: Niagara Falls and Eastern State Penitentiary. He was appalued and later wrote: "The System is rigid, strict and hopeless solitary confinement, and I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong...." It is only when one gets into a situation where there are no other humans to even look at when realization of how important human contact is hits you full force. McCandless learnt this during his canoe trip in the Gulf of California. Sanity can be a difficult thing to hold onto when one is all alone. Gilgamesh was also taught this painful lesson when he made the journey of 12 leagues under the mountain in pure darkness. There something about human touch and speech that is undefinable, yet in many ways as hard to live without as water. The saddest among the exiled are those who are surrounded by people yet horrifyingly alone. People can sometimes go through their whole lives and never truly connect with anyone else. Like a solitary drop of oil in a glass of water. It is a hard life to live filled with fear and an emptiness that can not be described. Perhaps this kind of mental separation is what drove Chris to find something he didn't even know he was looking for. This was certainly the condition Gilgamesh found himself in when Enkidu died. He had lost the one person in the world who could even begin to understand and communicate with him. When this happened he lost his mind. Roaming the wilderness in grief he wore the skins of animals and went in search of an unobtainable goal. All in the name of his dead friend who he could not even give the body up for burial because he believed he would come back to him. It would be easy for anyone to write off Kings like Gilgamesh as a fairy tale and adventurers like Chris McCandless as crazy. It is harder to look deeper into their missions and try and understand their point of view. However, by far the hardest thing to do is accept their decision. By saying that Chris was wrong to take a chance the condemer can say that they were right for not taking the chances they wanted to when they were young. For many people the security of knowing that they made all the right choices by playing safe is very important. These people tend to have many regrets, and they need to keep telling themselves that they have done everything right. However, the truth is life is short and most likely we don't get another shot at it, so the best way to live is without regret. This does not mean that every time someone feels that they have to do something crazy that they leap up and do it. This means that everyone has to simply make their bed and be happy to lie in it. Stressing about the past can not fix it. However more important than living with your own decisions is learning to respect other people's. Just because someone is living the life you wish you'd chosen is no reason to condemn them.