Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Getting Lost

There was a good amount of talk about getting lost today prompted by reading Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost. The other homework assignment for the lecture was to come up with names for campus. The goal of the exercise, beyond a challenge to be creative, is to make the place more personable, less cold and concrete. I sort of popped out on the exercise for two reasons: 1) I think the numbering system works just fine, people simply need to have it explained to them at the beginning and develop better senses of direction, and 2) I don't have any connection to this place or know enough about its history to be able to suggest names that would do its history and its student and staff alum justice (and the time to sort all of that out is simply not in my budget for this term).

So, one of the joys of Ms. Solnit's writing is that you can get lost in it--not that panicked type of lost, but the completely absorbed, not sure where you are but happy to be there because you will find your way home kind of lost. I didn't get what I expected when I opened the book; I got a whole lot more. I learned things about the human pelvis and evolution that I didn't know I would be interested to learn. I learned about peripatetic origins and as a sort of secondary coincidence I learned that Plato had a while where he didn't know what he was going to do before he started up his own school. The difference between most people and Plato, is that when they try to figure out what they want to do or get thrown off course, they find jobs doing bullshit administrative work for nut jobs and Plato goes and invents biology. Still, I'm delighted to learn that the crisis of purpose and identity is as old as the Greek philosophers. (And I wouldn't mind finding my own little island to putz around on and use my time there to document species or write books or, hell, just learn.

I've been thinking about getting lost and drifting and the difference. (Still not talking about the panicked getting lost.) Meandering. Rambling. Is my life a meander? A getting lost? A drifting? If it's a river and I know where the end is (the sea/death), then why not take my time getting there and cover as much ground as I can in the meantime?

Still, what I found myself thinking about most, was being found. I've never really been lost. There have been a few times where I was afraid of getting lost (once, in a forest where they were doing controlled burns and the path sort of disappeared and the atmosphere was smoky and brown, there were no people around, and I'd just been told to watch for snakes) but I've never been lost. I play at getting lost -- I'll go walk somewhere and not be sure where I'm going to end up. I do always know how to get back. I'm pretty good with directions and finding my way around. I consider myself lucky that way. Both my mom and grandmother are bad with directions. They can find their way home no problem, but they do have trouble if you sit them in one place (even if that place is our kitchen) and ask them to point in the direction of something else. I've heard stories of people who can't find their way home if they encounter a detour. I'm so grateful to not be amongst them.

One of my favorite things is what I'm calling location deja vu. It's when you find yourself somewhere and think I've been here before and you actually have. So it's having been taken somewhere as a child and going back as an adult and recognizing the street, the corner, some shop. And not just something that reminds you of something else, but you get a sense that you know right where you are, you know you've been there before, and you know what's next. You're not lost, but then suddenly you've found a place from your memory right there in front of you.

I've also been thinking about getting lost in the act of writing. I start out usually with an idea of where I want to go. I more often than not get lost on the way to the end and end up somewhere else.

I'm enjoying thinking about getting lost, getting lost in thoughts of getting lost.

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