Happiness is only real when shared

By , July 10, 2012 6:48 am

Have you seen that movie Into the Wild* based on the book of the same title? If not, maybe don’t read the next paragraph because I am going to give away the ending.

In the movie, the main character, Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch), graduates from college, abandons his possessions and gives away his life savings, then hitchhikes across the United States (and Mexico) and eventually in to Alaska to live in the wilderness. He doesn’t tell his family that he has left or where he is going. Along his travels, he meets a lot of people and forms relationships with them, but it set on going to Alaska to live in the wilderness on his own. He arrives and lives there for a few months until he comes to the conclusion that true happiness can only be found when shared with others. He wants to return home but he is unable to cross a river to leave and is trapped. He accidentally eats poisonous plants and dies.  Updated: he dies from starvation.

I remember watching this movie and being really annoyed by McCandles character. Why did he insist on secluding himself? Why didn’t he tell his family? Why didn’t he want to have any relationships in his life? I’m sure these are all things you are meant to think about.

But the thing I think about the most after seeing this movie (years later), is that quote – “happiness [is] only real when shared.”

Is that true? I consider myself to be a very independent person, and happy to do things on my own, yet…

  • Sometimes just taking a break to have a silly conversation with a coworker makes my day, and bring me out of a dumpy mood.
  • I quit therapy last week, because I realized I was avoiding sharing issues with my friends to try to be more positive…. but it was really just making me more negative in the long run. I’ve since been sharing things with my close friends and feeling better. I didn’t need the therapy for that**.
  • I really struggled living in a foreign country on my own (Rome, summer 2006 – I stayed after my classmates left when spring semester ended). I craved interaction, a good friend, someone. I knew something was wrong when I went to visit a classmate and London and was crying when I left. I made friends while I was there, and spent every night with my German nonna, but it wasn’t enough. I wish I could go back now, that I am stronger. Ha ha. And go back with Steven! 
  • Sometimes running with friends is the only thing getting me out the door (although I do usually love running alone, it is a treat to be with someone else).

These examples are more my interpretation of that quote. It’s not that I believe you are not happy when you are doing something by yourself, or if you never tell anyone about it.  I have gone on many adventures alone and loved them. But I have learned that I really do benefit from human interaction. And I probably would not do well living in seclusion.

How do you interpret the quote? Does it have any truth for you?

*Or maybe read the book? I’ve only seen the film.
** I do need it for my food issues but that part was not working out.

20 Responses to “Happiness is only real when shared”

  1. Kiersten says:

    That happened to me in Italy too. I generally loved it, but there were times when I was just so lonely. And generally I tend to be a pretty solitary person. It’s good to be comfortable by yourself, but it can also be a slippery slope. The more I am alone, the more I just want to be alone. Then, when I finally push myself to be more social, I do have a much better time. I think happiness is finding that balance.

    • kilax says:

      That is such a good point about the slippery slope. The more I keep to myself the less I want to talk to people. I get bitter or something. But that is a little bit different than keeping to myself because I am lonely, lol.

  2. kandi says:

    I’ve never heard of this movie or book but I kind of want to check it out even though you gave away the ending.
    I do enjoy some alone time but I thrive on spending time with others. I don’t think I’d do well in seclusion or traveling to another country alone.

    • ChezJulie says:

      Kandi, I highly recommend the book especially. (The movie is very good, too). The ending is largely given away on the cover of the book – the story is really the mystery of why he did what he did and what we should think about it – so Kim didn’t really give that much away and I bet you will still enjoy it!

  3. Erin says:

    Deep thoughts. I had to let my green tea sink in before I commented. Apologies if I don’t make any sense!

    The quote reminds me of the whole “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around does it make a sound” idea. If you’re a person who is happy and you don’t share it with anyone, does it count? I say yes. However, for many people sharing something that makes them happy doubles their happiness.

    Similar to you, I consider myself to be pretty independent but I do crave interaction, especially when it comes to adventures or trying new things. It’s always more fun to do it with someone else!

  4. Melie says:

    One of my favorite quotes, which I find it very similar to this is “life that is not shared is a stolen life”. It kind of gets lost in translation, but I hope the meaning is still clear 🙂

    Aristotle said that for someone to live alone, they should be either a wild beast or a god. and most people are neither. I like being alone most of the time, but I think I do this only in the comfort of the knowledge that there are people, like my family and a few close friends who are always there for me when I will really need their support or interaction. I can’t deny that this last semester that most of my friends left, I was really hard pressed. And that I am still trying to find my footing.

    How was that for a show-off? 😛

  5. Very deep, my friend! 🙂 I think life can definitely be quite lonely without at least the occasional company of others. I like to have alone time and I’d like to think I’m a pretty independent person, but I love spending time with friends and family and can’t imagine living a totally solitary existence.

  6. Marlene says:

    I was definitely moved by that movie. It was visually stunning (I’m a sucker for that kind of thing) and really rather haunting because it was based on a real person.. I think you can be happy whether you share it or not, but connections are good. I need both alone time and people time – I guess everyone has to figure out what work for them. Having said that, I guess I should stop beating myself up for wanting that alone time sometimes. 🙂

  7. ChezJulie says:

    I loved this post. The book and movie were both thought-provoking. I think it’s interesting to think about how much human contact we like. In the middle ages, an anchorite would live in a cell in the wall of a church and just have a slit for their food to be delivered.

    I figured out after college that although I like doing some solitary activities, like reading and writing and working on the computer, I really need human interaction. That was a big part of my career choice, knowing I wanted to have coworkers.

  8. Emily says:

    I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but I read your summary anyways. The ending sounds very unsatisfying. =(

    I disagree with the quote – I don’t think that happiness has to be shared to be real. I actually love doing things by myself (e.g. traveling, going to events, etc.). For me, there is a great feeling of freedom and independence when you do things solo, because you don’t have to answer to anybody. I’ve found that I notice more of what’s around me when I’m by myself. In short, some of my happiest moments have been when I was by myself! Not that I don’t love human interaction, because I certainly do. But I feel that there are great benefits both to being by yourself as well as being with others. (On a side note, though, I’ve definitely learned that it is possible to still feel lonely even when you are surrounded by people. But that’s a topic for another day.)

    • kilax says:

      That is a good topic for another day! You should cover that one!

      I wondered about this, because I do enjoy doing things on my own, but I still might want to share them with someone by telling them about it. Does that still make the statement true? So not so much the action of the thing, but the sharing?

  9. Mica says:

    Oh gosh, I’m not really good at deep thoughts, ha! I haven’t seen the movie, but from the synopsis (and my mom’s synopsis), I think I would have similar frustrations with the main character. (Wasn’t he a real person??)

    Living alone in a foreign country IS hard–and ha, I’m not even that alone. I was thinking that I’m good at going off on my own here (and in general) because I’m older and “wiser” (ha!) than I was in college. However, I’m not sure that I really enjoy these solo outings as much as I would with a close friend. As an adult, maybe our happiness is more dependent on sharing it with others.

    (Also hard about living in a foreign country: I hear homestay mom washing out the dog’s pee-tray in the shower…where I shower. Awesome.)

    • kilax says:

      Yes, it is based on a real person! Which makes me wonder how different the book is from the movie, and how accurate it all is.

      I think being somewhere foreign really changes it up a lot. I wonder if these themes are covered in Lost in Translation. I am not sure I have seen that.

  10. You know it’s based on a true story, right? Christopher McCandles is not a character, but a real person. And if I remember it correctly, he didn’t die from poisonous berries, but from starvation. I’d have to wikipedia it to make sure, but I’m too lazy right now.

  11. Marcia says:

    I definitely know of that movie..maybe I read the book??
    I think how one derives happiness depends on the individual. Some are more outgoing and thrive on social interaction more than others. I say whatever floats your boat. I am pretty darn independent, but I always enjoy time with friends and need to make more of an effort to have that.

  12. Kristina says:

    Great post – definitely an interesting topic. I find that I *need* to be alone in order to enjoy the time that I spend with other people and vice versa, but I also love sharing experiences and moments. It is great to take a solo hike or run, but I believe that I truly appreciate the experience more when I’m with another person. Also, for me, it is more fun to look back on an experience that was shared rather than just my own perspective.

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