I am in the middle of reading Rebecca Solnit’s “A Field Guide to Getting Lost”, and I am almost afraid to finish it. It has been a while since I’d read prose like that, prose that just wanders and teases, and it is not afraid of being exceedingly long and winding, in order to depict fragments of thoughts, feelings or memories:
Like writing, the music was solitary, talking to itself in that solitude of composition and contemplation, in the free flow of time that is before, after, between, but somehow never quite the now of a thriving romance, and perhaps this was also the time of my long summer drives, of driving six hundred, a thousand miles in a day, of unrolling again and again like movies, like stories, like the stories small children demand for reassurance, the sequences of Highway 40 through Arizona and New Mexico, 80 and 50 through Nevada and Utah, of 58 and 285 through the California desert, of many secondary highways and other roads, roads whose mesas and diners were always the same and whose light and clouds and weather never were.
I miss writing that way, not the technique, no not even close, but the feel that I am writing with abandon, loyal not to the reader or even myself, but to the imagery waiting to be transformed to words, as though they are a repetitive unconscious tune, waiting to be written into a song. I miss writing posts that just do not make a a point, posts that exist because I exist. Because they are an expression of my mind, a mind that is non-linear and fragmented.
Sometimes I think it is because I miss living that way. All of a sudden I wondered if I had ever lived that way. To live with abandon, that I am not loyal to the world or to myself, but just to the life force that exists within me. To allow my becoming to be inevitable instead of carefully architected, like a poem that exists almost out of a violent birth from a person’s consciousness.
In the same vein as Rebecca Solnit’s book, there is an art to getting lost. We are taught by our elders to react very specifically – getting lost, we have been told, is supposed to induce fear and insecurity. What if we are never to be found, what if we can never hold on to a single thread of familiarity again?
Nobody told me I could have a different reaction, that it is my inherent gift as a human being to choose my own response to any given scenario. Getting lost, can be exciting and fulfilling, it can feel safe, the safety of knowing I am never still because I keep getting myself lost, and I choose to be never still.
“But to lose oneself in a city—as one loses oneself in a forest—that calls for quite a different schooling.” To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away. In Benjamin’s terms, to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography.
I kept getting lost, over and over again, like an inevitable destiny. I kept feeling the fear I was told to feel – it is terrible to be lost, in a society that tries to make everything fit in its rightful place. We rationalise our humanity with theories and calculations, we try to explain everything, to dissect and analyse every inch of why we are who we are. But we have taken something away from ourselves, our capacity to reach into the unknown:
How do you calculate upon the unforeseen? It seems to be an art of recognizing the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, of collaborating with chance, of recognizing that there are some essential mysteries in the world and thereby a limit to calculation, to plan, to control. To calculate on the unforeseen is perhaps exactly the paradoxical operation that life most requires of us.
I tried to avoid getting lost, but the unknown keeps calling me, like a siren. And I have learned that it is through getting lost, through walking off the designated paths, to have the fortitude to sit with that feeling that I have no idea where I am going to go, except I am going somewhere, that brings me to the most unexpected places where I can be found, as if I am meant to be there all along. Places where there are unheard songs, unwritten words, unfelt love.
But only for a bit, for a bit I get to wonder at the immensity of it all, till the next time I am called to be lost.