The Importance of Being Lost

The maze is a response to domesticity. As soon as civilization rose and people came to know ordered life, the maze was born.

A garden is a swath of wilderness beaten flat, contoured and caged. It denies the metal and brick of the city but at the same time embraces its order, for a garden is at its heart a town built of natural materials. It has promenades and islands of colour, symmetries and symbols. Even in bloom gardens are static things, where one sits or does not sit, crosses or circumnavigates.

The earliest labyrinths, in contrast, attempted to engineer a garden with a temporal flow -- a walking narrative from the input to the output, a simulation of wandering. These early labyrinths featured just one path, however, reflecting the difficulty of stripping the garden of its architectural underpinnings.

The true maze, however, is a designed space in which one might recapture one of the most primeval experiences of wilderness -- that of being lost.

When the hand of design is too firm the maze becomes boring, a map of a man's cleverness made manifest. Nature, however, is much more sly. Where a city's order becomes buried beneath layers of new, uncoordinated building wildernesses appear in the crannies, organic spaces made of the urban medium in which all sense of civilization's governance is nearly banished. These mazes grow most fruitfully in ghettoes and slums, in neighbourhoods where the hand of order has been stayed by the competing virulences of street-level human needs. When you are lost in one of these mazes you might feel the untainted fear of your ancestor in the wilderness, direction ambiguous and predators everywhere.

There is value in feeling lost. It is a brand of freedom.

Freedom, too, is the opposite of domesticity through it is domesticity that grants us so many freedoms. Under the burden of these freedoms it can become easy to lose touch with what it is like to actually feel free, so inered in our familiar liberties that they take on the flavour of walls.

I have previously written about the willing suspension of disbelief. Today I ask you to lend your consideration to the notion of willingly losing sight of your navigational anchors, and letting yourself be physically unbounded by your knowledge.

Take my advice: get lost. It's great.

Civilization invented mazes because we need them.


Simon said...

It can sometimes be the unfettering of one's self in order to GET lost that's the difficult part. Whether that difficulty lies in overstepping physical strictures or those stemming from a more internal inhibition, to walk willingly towards a greater level of entropy is somewhat anathema to the human beast.

So I can see the value in occasionally doing so.

-NinjaVANISH said...

I don't think I will ever get tired of anything you write. Even when you use large words that my tiny hu-man brain seems to wrestle with. I am hooked, sir, hooked.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Good insight, Simon. Getting lost is definitely the hard part, because we try so hard not to.

Thanks for saying so, Ninjavanish.

I am currently parleying (sp?) this idea into a very modest, short scifi short story. I'll be posting it within a couple of days, depending on how busy work is.


Anonymous said...

whoa, being lost is lost of fun! yay!

Chris A. Jackson said...

Recipe for getting lost: a tall ship and a star to steer her by... and a little wind. There is nothing I've experienced that is so freeing as sailing under the stars, out of sight of land. Freedom so real it is a tactile presence that fills your sails...


Teddy said...

I was lost once...In a plane. It was definitely scary, but the best part was that singular moment (actually about five of them) in which it hit me that I was no longer on course, no longer in range of the radio station I was using to navigate...that I was indeed lost. The sheer terror involved in being lost, and not only in being lost but with a limited fuel supply under bad weather and in a wooded and fairly uncivilized area (northern Minnesota) was something I'd prefer to not forget anytime soon. But it was definitely fun becoming not lost again.


Cheeseburger Brown said...


That's a special kind of lost, to be sure -- the kind where if you don't gain your bearings quickly you'll end up less than alive.

I think to be enjoyable the consequences have to be slightly less dramatic -- like being in a foreign city and realizing that you have no idea where you are, no idea how the name of your hotel is pronounced in the local language which you can't speak, and you have no choice left but to act on instinct.

Being lost in a wilderness can walk the line: you have a day or two before lack of potable water becomes a crisis. That's a better window of survivability than being in an off-course aeroplane with limited fuel.

Glad you made it back!


Loki said...

You're quite a writer. Your imagery reminds me of the struggle between chaos and order. Too much chaos and we are lost without end. Too much order and everything stagnates.

Anonymous said...

I found I like reading your short stories they seem to flow evenly. And comes out smoothly. If that makes any sense at all.

I started reading at Darthside and continued on to Simon of Space. And just recently I read Lipgloss Gypsy.
You have left me with the joy of knowing that my life has come nowhere near scratching the top of yours.
And yet I am slightly disapointed that I have missed out on so much.

If the offer is still up. My fave. quote was:
"She also taught me that power corrupts, and that rationalising said corruption is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. Especially if those fish are horny"

Quoth Ruxanna, "Some boys can fuck. Others can't."

On this note I would like a grape lollypop

Thank You