3 April, 2013
Sometimes you’ve got it in you, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you’re stuck, and that’s a good thing, but sometimes you’re just lost.
I used to get lost all the time when I was a kid. I’d drive my mum nuts by wandering off in the supermarket, finding the customer service desk and telling them that I’d lost my mum. I have no idea whether I did that twice or a hundred times—whether I was just another kid or a regular—but I do know that the subsequent store announcements excited me and mortified my mum.
That was a different sort of lost, though: that was being lost through choice. Sometimes we want to lose ourselves, to disappear into the crowd, to pretend we’re somebody else, somebody we’re not, somebody new.
Sometimes we get so lost we become that new person. Sometimes we discover that we were lost all along, and had to give in to it to truly find ourselves.
Sometimes we have to hit bottom before we can climb back up.
Sometimes, though, we’re just lost. Something happens and everything loses its colour, or its warmth, or its depth. Sometimes the world flattens: we turn back to remind ourselves what we were doing, why we were doing it, and there’s nothing staring us back in the face.
The void is a terrifying thing. Thrilling, enticing, but utterly terrifying. Finality scares me. Emptiness scares me.
Nothing scares me. Literally.
And yet here I find myself, staring at it, looking into the emptiness that gazes back at me. Impassive, timeless, relentless, waiting.
I want to scream at it, yell at it, get some reaction from it, but there’s no reaction it can make. There’s nothing it can do, it simply is.
And in that instant, it reminds me what I am, why I am here, what it is that makes me different from it. A vital difference.
I can react. I am evolved solely to react. This is why the emptiness scares me: it is so utterly alien to my being.
But then, what is it to face the emptiness? What is it to face truly being lost? What do I gain by feeling lost, because surely I gain from every experience?
What I gain is a reminder that the world, on its own, is empty. It’s impassive, it is pure action and reaction, without thought, without reason. The universe is a beautiful machine, and so am I, but I am a machine with a quirk: my mind, an organ tuned to improving my chances of survival, thinks. It thinks, and it can perceive. It can seek meaning and reason. It can tell stories, it can sing songs, it can laugh, it can cry. It can invent.
It can distract from the cold, clinical emptiness that is reality. It can provide precisely the reason that it craves in the world: a wonderful, magical symmetry.
We make our own reasons. Why not make one that’s worth becoming lost in?