Thursday, June 24, 2004

A little traveling music, please . . .

I'm headed home to visit my folks and my sister this weekend. But before I go, I have a couple of tidbits for you all, some thoughts on the journey. Hopefully none of them will apply this weekend!

First, some wisdom from the Tao Te Ching:
"A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving . . ."

A wise friend once told me that there are two criteria for being lost: not knowing where you are and not knowing how to get where you’re going.

I’ve always loved that definition. And yet most people only use the first criteria in their definitions. So many people I’ve known cry, “We’re lost!” at the first sign of unfamiliarity. But to me the key has always been in the second half: Do I know how to get to where I want to be from here?

I grew up in the Midwest, where most streets are laid out in a grid. Unlike other places, where the roads wrap themselves around geographical features, around here, if you want to be North of where you are now, you can generally put yourself on a road heading north and follow it without getting yourself into too much trouble. This is a good thing, because I also have abysmal spatial skills. I’ve spent a good part of my life not knowing exactly where I am.

My friends and family will readily tell you that I have an uncanny ability to get myself lost in the first sense, even in places I’m familiar with. What they may not know (although I’m sure some of them have guessed by now), is that I enjoy being lost. I love driving through countryside or neighborhoods I’ve never seen before. I adore turning down a previously unexperienced road just to see where it goes. I love the challenge of figuring out a particular navigational puzzle. And most of all, I’m addicted to that intoxicating moment when I pull up to a stop sign, look around, spot a familiar landmark, and find myself suddenly back in known territory, a triumphant explorer.

There is a certain Zen quality to being lost. For that time, my life is transformed. No longer do I worry about what’s for dinner or if I’ll have time to clean the bathroom tonight. I’m consumed by my desire to find my way back to familiar territory. I absorb the details of the area around me. I’m completely in the moment.

The way I see it, finding yourself in unfamiliar territory is just the beginning of a grand adventure. So long as you’ve nowhere pressing to be and you make it home in time for dinner, what’s the harm in getting yourself a little lost now and then?