I can’t count the number of times I have read in newspapers and in novels that we—the modern We—have lost our way. That we are spiritually bankrupt. Emails and the internet have replaced face-to-face conversation. We are too consumerist. Politicians lie. Everyone is too busy. Trees are disappearing. There are no more heroes. On and on. If we are lost, then there must be someplace we were supposed to be. The hero’s journey, upon which so many stories are based, always involves a protagonist becoming lost. Dante’s Inferno begins with that very event. This being lost is never much fun for the protagonist. It often precedes his death moment, when he must decide if he is willing to abandon the life he believed he must lead to be happy. If he does not, he dies and we have a tragedy; if he does, he lives and we have a comedy.
I have never met or known anyone who has not at some point become lost. Everyone at some point believes they are lesser than, that to succeed, to get married, to get published they must somehow be someone other than themselves. Follow this idea and you quickly become lost. The internet can’t do this to you; politicians can’t do this too you—only a choice made in the quiet of your own mind can do this to you.
So we will probably be writing and talking about lost societies as long as societies are made up of people who become lost, which means forever. I don’t see anything wrong with this. As Geneen Roth points out, there may be no way to know the value of your authentic life until you have tried an inauthentic one. Yet as Geneen and many others like her know, you can become lost, but that which you wish find cannot be lost to you, which may actually be the point of becoming lost. In returning to that which waits for all of us, we understand more fully the patience and endurance of love, and our separation becomes the gift that teaches us the value of ourselves.
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