From where you are to where you need to be


If you happen to have a driver’s license, when was the last time you just drove?

I mean no destination, no directions, at times no idea where you were, drove.

When I first got my license… back in the days long before GPS units and cellphone apps… we used to drive around and occasionally get lost. (Then we’d stop for pizza. But that part is probably best saved for a different story.)

Funny thing about driving around. If you can manage to stay on a decent secondary road and continue along a fairly straight path, eventually you’ll find yourself looking at a sign for a major road. A highway. Maybe an interstate. Usually with numbers you recognize. You will find that every road can lead you back home. (Just follow some of the best literary advice ever: “Don’t panic.”)

I’m beginning to wonder at times though if the magic of getting lost has been lost. Everything has an app, right? And those apps keep getting better. Dirt roads are being identified. Business names are shown. We’re probably not that far away from real-time video displays on your screen that have moved on from pictures or animation to actual footage of the path you’re on. (And someday, they’ll even include accurate depictions of time of day and weather conditions.)

A lot of times we seem to try and place our life into the concept of a journey. An origin and a destination. Points of interest along the way. And, for many of us—heck, for all of us—literal and figurative moments of recalculating and lost satellite signals and… frankly… lost us. We need to find our way.

This is the point where I could split off into a number of tangents. We could talk about those that are lucky enough to know the route they have always wanted to take. We could talk about the joys of having someone great sitting next to you, helping to navigate and share the excitement. We could investigate why so often we ignore the best advice and panic. We could. But we won’t.

Because I’m just sticking with the basics.

Earl Swift is a great writer. One of his books, The Big Roads, does a wonderful job of covering the history and importance and even meaning of roads in the United States. On its pages you can head out on a drive with family and friends, discover the stories about towns and restaurants and gas stations, and learn about systems and meanings for numbering and more. It’s a fascinating effort.

James Burke did a wonderful job with projects like Connections, where he offered explanations for developments that depicted how a web of events and efforts needed to be drawn together for an accomplishment to be realized. (He also adds to his argument by saying that the weaving of activities and the pace of development brings together a staggering rate of motion that can sweep aside things we all currently take for granted.)

I’m not doing Swift or Burke any favors in tributing their work. I’m missing a great deal of detail and effort that they brilliantly offer. Check it out for yourself. Definitely worth your time. But the idea is the same.

Our journey is never a straight line. It’s a tangled, woven, spreading endeavor with options and decisions and choices and alternatives. There’s never one way to get to where you plan to be.

Cloudless day. Full tank of gas. The right station playing on the radio.

Where are you headed today? (Time to get lost and find out.)


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