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(Encore Post)

I was watching a movie the other day and a commercial came on for one of the rental car companies. Their pitch was that all cars came equipped with a built-in GPS so that the driver, meaning you, could never get lost. They drew back to show a satellite orbiting the earth and the voice-over had Hal the Computer telling the confused and distraught driver to take a right on Front Street.

This commercial really struck a nerve with me – the nerve that says, you should never get lost. Who says so? Some of my favorite adventures are getting lost stories. Think Robinson Crusoe, Shangri-La, Alice in Wonderland! What I found so unsettling was the subliminal message, assumption, cultural cue that a person should never be in a situation in which he does not know exactly where he is, where he going and how to get to his destination. Very results driven, very destination oriented, very up-tight, very anal, very high pressure.

The message is that security can only be found in the ‘known,’ that the unknown, the unexpected, the new, is dangerous. In fact, the unknown is so dangerous that we’re going to put Big Brother in the sky to look down on you. We always know exactly where you are and where you are going. You will never get lost again. All of your journeys will be routed ones. Holy cow!

I think our culture has become so safety-oriented (from airport security to job security to social security) that we no longer see the value of chaos. Have you noticed that it is only when you realize you don’t know any answers that you find them; that it is only after you admit you don’t know where you are going that you find your way; that it is only when you acknowledge you are lonely that the other arrives? In other words, all wisdom is born of chaos. It is the great melting pot of life. It is the place where stars are born and the place we return to when we die.

And it’s also very interesting to observe reactions to being lost. For example, a companion and I took a trip last summer to the Pacific coast. There was an energy vortex over the town of Gilroy which is famous for its garlic (perhaps it was the fumes). No matter which direction we took, Gilroy was always five miles ahead. My companion (male pilot) refused to listen to any of my (female navigator) suggestions. It mattered not that I had the map as well as the leisure to contemplate it.

Instead, he took a reading from the Compass Gland that is found at the base of the spine only in the males of any species. The pointer set a direction from which we dared not deviate. We were off! My responsibility during this “Finding Our Way” phase of the trip consisted of reading the map and calling out “Go right! Turn left!” while freeway signs flew overhead. His job was to pretend deafness, wave his arms and careen down exit ramps at the last possible moment only to head up another ramp going in the opposite direction.

Needless to say, this was memorable trip for both of us and very revealing of our individual temperaments. We did make it to the ocean and after a couple of stiff drinks resumed conversing in a less hostile tone of voice. Strangely enough, we both felt responsible for finding our way out of Chaos and therefore had the smug satisfaction of being right while mentally giving a sniff and a toss of the head at the other’s ineptitude (except that I knew he was really lost).

The chaotic journey is packed with energy perhaps undirected but full of life and attitude. In contrast, the mapped journey is straight and narrow without interesting side trips. You may get there faster but not wiser nor happier. Getting lost is an opportunity to discover where you are – and perhaps who you are.

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