I often look at the world through Google Maps and Satellite. The satellite imagery can reveal some extraordinary sights. The maps are not just useful for finding my way around town. They can help me read Les Misérables, showing how the various locations such as Toulon, Montfermeil and Paris fit together. Or, for example, show me where are the Carteret Islands that are being overwhelmed by the rise in sea-level associated with climate change. Using these electronic tools and taking the bird’s eye view can trigger our imagination and sympathy. But they can also dissociate ourselves from where we are.
How often do we read stories of cabbies sent by satnavs into rivers or lorries down inappropriate roads? I’ve seen a Bluewater pantechnicon stranded between Holne Bridge and New Bridge on Dartmoor. GPS and satnav seem to have replaced our senses – our eyes, and any innate sense of direction – and our common sense. Everything has all got very task-oriented, too. I know I need to learn how to have more fun getting lost, and how it can help in our daily lives living with uncertainty, whether we like it or not.
I suppose that’s one of the things we are running from, when we move around so much, or distract ourselves with drink, TV or other narcotic of choice. “Wherever you go, there you are” is one of those sorts of proverbs that have been attributed to Confucius and Buddha. But whoever said it, it’s true. You cannot run from your problems indefinitely. Much better to place yourself somewhere and make some connections, and then you can uncover and face your problems and uncertainties with others’ help. Anthony the Great, one of the Desert Fathers, put it this way: “wherever you go, keep God in mind; whatever you do, follow the example of Holy Scripture; wherever you are, stay there and do not move away in a hurry. If you keep to these guide-lines, you will be saved.”
In 1978, Walter Brueggemann wrote: “The sense of being lost, displaced, and homeless is pervasive in contemporary culture”. Maybe that’s why we find it difficult to experiment with deliberate lostness. One step at a time. Although still largely counter-cultural, many people are now seeking to reconnect with their locality and with the rest of nature. Spring is springing, days are lengthening. Why not have a wander around where you live? Notice things – the birds singing, that funny-looking chimney, patterns, the warmth of the sun (hopefully!). Say hello to people you meet – smile at those funny looks, or enjoy those surprising conversations. And take the road less-travelled – the snicket you pass every day and wonder where it leads, or the drang you hadn’t even noticed before. There you are!