My family and I moved into a new house about two weeks ago. We bought a small home in a quiet, established area with tall trees, lawn-obsessed neighbors, and their hilarious Yorkshire terrier that cowers in fright every time he sees you ambling down the sidewalk. One of my son’s favorite new things to do is to take an evening “walk” around our neighborhood. This typically includes him zooming down the sidewalks on his Buzz Lightyear bicycle, stopping at corners and looking behind as he waits for my husband and I to catch up. We play at this for about half an hour and then head home.
Tonight, however, my husband said he wanted to get some unpacking done and some pictures on hung on the walls so I volunteered to go on the walk with my son. Alone. Everything was going along pleasantly for the first part of the trip. He was doing a great job of following directions… not getting too far ahead, stopping at every corner to wait. There was a pleasant breeze and the smell of someone’s dinner just off the backyard grill. I was enjoying myself so much that I zoned out for a few moments and stopped paying attention to what street we were on or how many turns we had made.
You can guess what happened next. I stopped at a stop sign, looked around to try and get my bearings and realized… I was lost. Okay, well maybe not exactly lost but definitely turned around.
I have a rather keen since of direction. I’ve traveled, seen a bit of the world, and have gotten turned around in some unfamiliar cities (Yes, I’m talking about you, Dublin). Usually it is no big deal, because usually I’m not alone.
The sun was setting, and as I wandered I noticed it growing darker. Soon, the cars that passed us by all had their headlights on. Lawn sprinklers on automatic timers suddenly burst to life. My son, though thrilled to still be outside at such a time (and even more thrilled with the lawn sprinklers) soon began to repeat the same expectant question. Mommy, are we lost?
The first thing that came to my mind when I realized that I actually might not be able to get us home on my own was that surely my husband would notice it getting dark and wonder what happened. He’d get in his car and drive around the neighborhood until he found us. He’d definitely do that. Right?
I needed someone to come bail me out of my mess. I needed a savior.
And when you stop and think about it, isn’t that life in microcosm? It is a big, scary world that doesn’t seem to make much sense. It is terrifying to think about making the wrong turn, taking the wrong job, marrying the wrong spouse, selecting the wrong financial investment. This holds especially true if you, like me, were raised to have little confidence in your own decision-making abilities. Add to that the fact that so much of life is out of our control anyway. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what decisions or choices you make. Things inexplicably happen and you have to find a way to deal.
With so many ways to go wrong, get lost, or just plain fuck up… it is easy to see at least part of theism’s appeal. We all want to think that there is a guiding force that is acting on our behalf. I was speaking with a coworker last week. She was having some electrical work done on her home. The wiring was in such need of repair that after looking at the home the electrician told her he couldn’t believe the place had not yet burned down. “I must have angels watching over me,” she said. I thought that she should try telling that to all of the people who have lost everything (including love ones) in home fires and see what they have to say about angels.
But even I wanted to believe that someone was out there looking for me as I wandered in the half-dark. Turns out I wasn’t lost. Not really. I started trying to make turns only going East toward the main road through our neighborhood and even though I didn’t initially recognize any of the street names, I soon found myself back on the same street I’d started from about three or four blocks down from my house.
So, what say you, reader? Do you think it is ingrained in our very nature to call upon divine help even when there is no evidence that it ever works? Is the human need to make sense of an impersonal, random and senseless universe so overwhelming that we will literally make up a Sky Helper to whom we appeal? Let me know your thoughts.
And next time I take a walk, I’m just going to bring my iPhone. Seriously. Who gets lost in suburbia these days?