There I was some library in DC, checking out binder folders of reference material about hydrants. That’s where I felt lost in precisely the same way. Browsing through and not finding anything to bite on.
Why was I searching? I was convicted by the judge, who was a friend of mine because I used a fire extinguisher to extinguish a fire even though there was a hydrant nearby. The law apparently said that a hydrant must be used if nearby. There were precedents aplenty of other people convicted, and the judge couldn’t give me a pass. I was not angry at him. I was mad at the hydrant lobby creating such a stupid law.
Mindlessly I continued to look at different binders of law and precedents, searching for a way to fight that damn hydrant lobby. It didn’t feel like I was making any progress. Lost. Helpless. Mindless.
Let’s pause here. If this doesn’t make sense, it’s because it should not. It was a dream I had several days ago, and like any dream, the story is not supposed to make sense. It is just a bunch of thoughts and emotions associated. That there is a little bit of story is quite surprising itself.
As with fiction stories, it is not the funny details that matter- it is the emotion of the characters. The situation is made up, but the emotions are real. Even outside the dream, I was experiencing a sense of confusion of having lost my path. The story was made up, but the emotions are real.
We all live our life on a path. By definition, it is the path of conformity. It often leads to a boring life and death. Some call it nine-to-five, some call it the rat race. The path of conformity is wide, beaten and solid. It is ancient, like a road from the Roman Empire. It has been there for a long time, and it will be around for much longer. It prescribes our action, from the major decisions of religion, diet, holidays, to seemingly minor everyday choices as to drinking coffee or tea in the morning.
It takes courage to stray off the path. It also takes awareness and awakening. Sleepwalking through life is when you don’t question your own decision making. You can be very awake on the fact that Priuses are better for the environment than trucks, and condemning anyone who uses a gas guzzler. And yet, at the very same time, you might be asleep about all the other ways we humans are changing the earth and the ecosystem. And you might be extremely asleep about why you’re caring about the environment. You might be thinking that it’s for the betterment of the “environment” or “nature” itself, and miss the point that it is only for the betterment and survival of humans. Because the Earth and Nature and Life are extremely resilient, but the human species is not so much.
And yet being able to see through the lies if the Jedi, one starts seeing schemes within schemes within schemes, as they say in Dune. For every motivation and incentive that we feel there’s ofta strategically larger scheme, which motivates it. And our actions. Even though I like to pretend that I’m and independent thinker, I realize, that even “independent thinking” is a conformist thing, and expected part of society, bound to cover a spectrum of opinions.
Why am I talking about this meta bullshit, Bene Gesserit, and “saving the world”? How is it related to the title of this essay about being lost? Let’s discuss.
In my life, I tried to escape the beaten roman road, the hamster wheel, but starting to veer off, I am feeling like I might be getting lost.
Up until nine months ago, I was marching along, stomping my boots on the paved shiny stones. All roads lead to Rome. I had graduated from university, got a good job, and had recently gotten a promotion. I was pretty good at marching, and I had a good speed.
Then I decided to take a side path, a fork in the road. In one of my favorite coffee shop “Crossroads Cafe” in San Francisco, the personal all wear t-shirts with the saying “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”. I had seen that phrase many times and yet heeded it only a few. Eight months ago, I took what it looked like a very promising fork. I quit my job.
The new path was and still is, exciting. Instead of staying in the valley, it started going up in the forest, metaphorically speaking. And in this forest is where I’m starting to feel lost. To go through the woods and up the mountains, it is sometimes possible to use an existing path and follow the signs. But is not necessary- one can take a different route making way through the thick vegetation.
Yes! It is possible to get lost and miss the path. But this is not the type of confusion that I’m talking about. The reason for my feeling lost is not for the lack of paths and the forest thickness. It is for having too many directions to choose from, and not deciding which one to go through.
Some paths lead right back to the Roman road. Others offer arduous and perilous shortcuts ahead. And others go further into the wild. I am still far from the genuinely unexplored wilderness and doubtfully equipped to handle it. But even that path is still there, in consideration. What that path promises, is not getting far, but getting high.
A few days ago, hiking in the Pyrenees, I got off the main path. Coming down, I was following the markings- small stone pyramids, when I realized that up ahead was a snow section I was not equipped to cross. It turned out that this was an alternative, harder path. I had to backtrack up to the main route.
It that case, you can say I got lost. But being lost is subjective. In the same situation, I could have decided to continue on the alternative path and explore. Then I would NOT have been lost. I would have been wandering and exploring.
The change of perspective is all it takes to stop being lost. I realize that I was worried and anxious and feeling lost, in life, because I had the attitude that I must stay on the path. Even if it is the new path I am creating.
Instead of getting stressed over it, I can embrace the wandering. I am in a new territory for me, and I am only going to find my way by doing enough exploration. By discovering the dead ends and the passages to the hidden lakes and vista points. Deciding how high, and how far I want to go, and my skills and capabilities would take me.
Richard Feynman once got so burned out by the BS of academia, that decided to stop doing “serious” physics, and instead played with “silly” things such as the wobbliness of plates spinning in the air. The equations he discovered on that silly playtime, eventually blazed the trail for him to get a Nobel Prize, and more importantly, rekindled his love for doing “serious” physics. The moral I take from that story is that a little silliness doesn’t always hurt.
I no longer feel lost and anxious. I am starting to find joy in the discomfort of being out there, in the open. I am going to look at the maps, I am going to lighten up my load, and I am going to level up by doing side quests. I give myself a permission to be silly.
And then I will continue walking and my path will take me somewhere.