Getting lost

Rebecca Solnit’s book has an intriguing title: A Field Guide to Getting Lost. The essays are intensely personal and “modern” and not necessarily related to solitude as much as alienation. The book uses her life story to explore a theme best captured in this line: “To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.”

Solnit notes that of travelers in wilderness who get lost, those who did not live on a tight schedule did not panic. One could extrapolate: those who had few possessions, those who had few worldly responsibilities, etc. Her premise is that while we enter nature with a thread behind us to safely circumscribe our adventure (a la the Minotaur’s cave, though it is my analogy, not Solnit’s), the author thinks one ought to intentionally look for nothing in a not familiar environ and lose oneself psychologically, philosophically, and practically. As Solnit puts it: “The question, then, is how to get lost.” Invert the Biblical phrase about gaining the world and losing your soul to echo Thoreau: lose the whole world, get lost in it, and find your soul.