You might be wondering why I didn’t want a map as I was descending Pike’s Peak. I was hiking through the wilderness, in unfamiliar terrain, after all.
OK, I’ll tell you.
I wanted to get lost.
Getting lost would be easy here. It would be hard for me to get lost in any city’s rotten core. It would be impossible in the plump suburbs. I know my way around a boulevard of strip malls. Even a housing development’s twisting streets don’t disorient me. I can sniff out a Starbucks from a mile away. I can track Ronald McDonald’s size sixteens on a concrete sidewalk, but I had never been in an alpine landscape before. I had never been so high, except when strapped to an airplane. I had never clomped around in a topography more vertical than horizontal. I had never been to a land beyond trees, where they would not grow, where boulders rose higher than my head, where snow lingers far into the summer. I had never been where the wind never stopped, but where there was not enough air for my lungs.
I didn’t want to let the opportunity go to waste.
Whenever we’re not lost, we are not really living. Rather, we are living second hand, having had our narrative supplied by another; we are living on the map, rather than the territory.
You’ve got to remember that the map is not the territory. The ideas we have, the constructs we construct, the stories we tell, the symbols we create, are not the world itself. Furthermore, no map can tell you everything. If it did, it would have to be as large as the world itself. It would need a scale of 1:1. You would not be able to fold it up and put it in your pocket. Indeed, if you had a map that told you everything, you might do away with the territory altogether and go hiking on the map.
The funny thing is: we do it anyway. We have grown so accustomed to our maps, so attached to them, so dependent, that we no longer see the world around us. We only look at our maps.
The only way to stop looking at maps is to get lost.
Getting lost will cause you to throw away your map in disgust, or, at least, revise it. It’ll make you open up your eyes and look around, which you have not been doing when you were in your map. We do not fully appreciate the beauty and strangeness of our world until we are lost in it. It’ll make you recalculate your position with the world.
Getting lost is often as much a matter of identity as geography. It is to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you of who you are and who others think you are. I was a stranger in these parts and no one knew what to expect. Elk lifted their mighty racks, squinted, and bugled an alarm. Bighorn sheep paused their battles to watch me pass. They had never seen the likes of me either. Pikas chattered and scampered for cover as I came by. A marmot sat on its haunches and studied me. A ptarmigan eyed me, her head jerking to get a good view as I approached her nest.
I need to correct myself. We don’t really get lost, the passive tense is wrong. God doesn’t lose us. If He gives a shit at all, He knows where we are. No, we lose ourselves; rather, we lose our “selves”. We set aside that false construct that we call our selves that obstructs our true selves. In other words, we do not find ourselves until we are lost.
I was completely lost in these thoughts when I came upon a sign at an intersection. It said, The Bottomless Pit. There was an arrow to the left. I took the trail to The Bottomless Pit. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
For more information about getting lost, read, The Field Guide to Getting Lost.