Are You Lost?

Paths Diverge
Paths Diverge

I was strolling in my beloved Mount Congreve Garden yesterday when I happened upon a couple who seemed enthralled with the place. 

The man said to me: “Are you lost, by any chance?”

This apparently simple question cast me into ponderings about what it means to be lost.

#Lost in the beauty of nature

#Lost in love

#Lost in happiness

#Lost in physical or emotional pain

#Lost as a child ~ me outside the Cathedral in Mullingar one October Sunday morning when I was four and only in the town a month or so. A kindly man who had  delivered vegetables to our house came over to me and asked: “Are you lost.” He knew where we lived and brought me home to Mother while poor Father was still racing around trying to find me!

#Lost in a book

#Lost to the workforce ~ either by choice or jettisoned.

#Lost on a journey ~ finding new places while frantically trying to turn in cul de sacks.

Lost in Love
Lost in Love

So, so many associations ~ and we aren’t talking about ‘losing’ here or are we: ‘Yes, I lost the tennis match,’ and the eternal wise response, ‘Put it down to experience!’ 

Being lost  seems to me to be part of the very essence of life. I suggest that most of us are probably lost in a host of ways at any given time. Life is about being lost and found, just as the tide ebbs and flows.

It is only in being lost that we come to recognise being found. And being found is as double-edged and bittersweet as being lost.

Lost 3
Wings of Life




Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

24 thoughts on “Are You Lost?”

  1. Well said SB. Very nice. I used to drive randomly around and try to get lost for the enjoyment and challenge. When I drove tractor-tralier long haul for a living I would sometimes get lost (not deliberately) and always learned something from it. In fact I have a theory that we only learn when “lost”. .Ha! This is not a popularly accepted theory. I clearly recall one beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon I was driving a B-train tanker (a tractor trailer with two trailers behind, holding 58,000 liters of gas and being 80 feet in length weighing 140,000 pounds) and my boss was in teh office dispatching. I was cutting across between two highways looking for a short cut to delivery and had missed the turn I wanted. I knew that I had a major highway to the east and another to the west, so I wasn’t concerned. My cell phone rang and it was my boss and he wanted to know where I was. I told him I didn’t know. He went ballistic and wanted to know what I was doing lost with the truck. I told him there was no other way to find more efficient and less costly ways to do things than to go where you’ve never gone before.

    1. Paul, I’m inclined to go along with your theory to a considerable extent. My only reservation is that maybe there comes a time if someone has too many negative losses that they become absolutely overwhelmed and are beyond being able to learn from them. A lot depends, I think, on the balance between positive and negative experiences of being lost.
      What a great conversation with your boss. Brilliant story! What was the overall outcome?

      1. Ha! Yes SB, there is level of the known that is a basis of the theory – i.e. you can only get lost if ultimately you were in known territory prior to being lost (a seemingly unspoken rule of existence – all things come from somewhere) and will eventually be “found”. So, lost is like the creme filling between the two chocolate wafers of “known” in an oreo cookie. Ha! Yum – can you tell I am hungry? ha! And my boss – he and I had an odd relationship that i eventually (and with shame) broke: he would accept my word as real (as long as i explained it) even if he could not personally see or believe what I was saying. He seemed to come upon that when I showed him a number of times that my apparently nutso perspective was, in fact, right.. Because of that I tried hard not to state anything as”true” unless I really believed it to be “true” around him. As an example, I was his safety manager for a while and one day I was sent to investigate a “mix” at a service station. The driver had put diesel into the gas storage of the station. That particular driver, had a history of doing some very unorthodox and sometimes scary actions (and he seemed to have a guardian angel because he had not caused any mayhem or killed anyone). We closed down the station and I joined the driver on site, determined there was a mix, went over the situation carefully with the driver while we waited for a pumper and replacement product, and came to the undeniable conclusion that a valve had failed inside the trailer, causing the mix. This never happened – I had never seen it nor had any or our employees or mechanics ever seen it happen nor had the boss ever seen it (in decades of fuel experience) and the trailer was almost new. Anyway, when all was said and done, the still partially loaded trailer was taken back to our terminal and, on my authority we were pumping the remaining product into another trailer. I went in to see the boss and he was furious and wanted the driver fired and said my analysis was bullshit (we could and did yell at each other without losing respect) . I told him that if he didn’t believe me, he should get his ass out of the chair and come and see. He did and I showed him the switch for the offending valve was off, and then dragged him up on top of the trailer and we opened the hatch, and watched as the fuel level in the compartment kept going down and down as the pumper emptied an adjacent compartment and the valve to ours was off. He just looked at me strangely and said I was right, climbed down and went back to his office. The trailer was sent for repair and it was confirmed that the valve had failed and was a one in a million. Ha! I happened to overhear when my boss spoke to the owner (the total cost ended up being in excess of $50,000 damage) and the owner reacted exactly as my boss had and wouldn’t believe it until we took the valve (once it was out)and put it on the owner’s desk and showed him how it had failed.

        So anyway,all that to say my boss was OK with what I explained once I explained it – but that was a hard won outcome with a lot of history, believe me.

        1. Paul, must say the theory is a lot more appealing now especially if we’re going to be lost in chocolate-land!

          As for your boss, he sounds like he was a decent sort. Pity you broke apart.

  2. A single word can set off so many associations and echoes. Your post reminds me of a writing prompt I came across once – the task was to begin writing (free writing, without thinking) a page of dialogue between two people, beginning with one person asking the other ‘what do you mean, lost?’. It can lead to some surprising results.

  3. What a fabulous post! To take the time to ponder the meaning being being lost. I, personally love to get lost on a road, it leads to discoveries I would never have know existed! My hubby however, hates to get lost. As soon as he thinks he’s made a wrong turn, he breaks out into a sweat! (Some interesting psycho-analysis could be done…!) He doesn’t enjoy having that reaction but can’t seem to help it. I’ve been working on him for 19 years trying to tell him to just go with the flow!

    A few years ago, I went away for a week-end BY MYSELF!!! for the first time ever and when I got back, I told him: “Guess what I did? I took a road that I had no idea where it would lead!!” 😉 His response was a “hardy, har, har… good for you”…. don’t think he was amused…

  4. “ ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’ ~ J. R. R. Tolkien.
    Nor do all that are lost, wander. Some stay where they are, and hope to be lead to safety…Those who are all journey, have no destination; those who are all destination have no journey.”
    (Things I’ve Said Before)

  5. Lost in admiration for the continual quality of your posts? However, being lost, as I thought I was for a very large portion of my life, somehow, in a raggle-taggle fashion, brought me to where I am at this moment in time. So was I lost, or did destiny actually know where I needed to be? Who can say?But here I am, and here all of us are, and being lost is merely the uncertainty of never quite knowing what the next moment will bring.

    1. Stan, thanks for your charming comment. I love that turn of phrase, ‘raggle-taggle fashion.’

      I agree wholeheartedly about the association between being lost and the uncertainty of never quite knowing what the next moment will bring but I think that there are times when we are lost, like me yesterday in the beauty of Mount Congreve, that we are so engrossed that we are sort of ‘out of thought,’ ~ not a very lyrical turn of phrase!

  6. “It is only in being lost that we come to recognise being found.” Thank you for the thoughtful post, Jean – another in a stream of thoughtful and observant musings. I have found that there is a place on the edge of the known and the unfamiliar that lends itself to learning and sharpening the senses. There is almost always a reference point “back there somewhere” that allows one to get one’s bearings and understand a current reality. Sometimes the biggest challenge is to be able to focus on recalling that moment. In this respect, the cardinal advice given to physically lost individuals can apply equally well: stop moving. Let the extra stimuli fade away and allow the present to arrive.

    1. Rich, many thanks for such a thought-provoking response. I love the idea of ‘back there somewhere’ as a reference point and that advice about ‘stop moving.’

      All I can think of now in connection with the ‘stop moving’ is how that’s the time you here the birds sing and feel the butterfly gently land.

  7. Wonderful post, Jean, so thought provoking. It’s amazing from that one simple question, all the thoughts that came to your mind…this is a great line, “Life is about being lost and found, just as the tide ebbs and flows.”

  8. Yes… wonderful post!
    Interesting reading and excellent images.
    I fell in love with this; “Life is about being lost and found, just as the tide ebbs and flows.”

    1. Andrea, ‘lost’ is a tiny word, isn’t it? And this is only the start of all the things one could say about it. Maybe it’s time for a little book on the matter!

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