Jesus told them this parable: ‘What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who turns back to God.’ (Luke 15:8-10)
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 … 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 available through geography.
The thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost. The word ‘lost’ comes from the Old Norse los, meaning the disbanding of an army, and this origin suggests soldiers falling out of formation to go home, a truce with the wide world. I worry that many people never disband their armies, never go beyond what they know …
Sallie [a park ranger] told me about a lost eleven-year-old, a deaf boy who was also losing his eyesight as part of a degenerative disease that would eventually cut short his life. He had been at a camp where the counsellors took the kids on an excursion and then led them in a game of hide-and-seek. He must have hidden too well, for they could not find him when the day was done, and he did not find his way back. Search and Rescue was called out in the dark, and Sallie went into the swampy area with dread, expecting that in that nearly freezing night they could find nothing but a body. They blanketed the area, and just as the sun came over the horizon, she heard a whistle and ran toward it. It was the boy, shivering and blowing a whistle, and she hugged him and then stripped off most of her clothing to put it on him.
He had done everything right—his whistle had not been loud enough for the counsellors to hear above the running water, but he had whistled until nightfall, then curled up between two fallen trees, and begun whistling again as soon as it was light. He was radiant at being found, and she was in tears at finding him …
Children … are good at getting lost, because ‘the key in survival is knowing you’re lost’: they don’t stray far, they curl up in some sheltered place at night, they know they need help.
© Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Canongate, 2005. #40ways40days. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.
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