I Once Was Lost (About 30 Minutes Ago)

13 Aug

Should have brought the sat nav.

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?

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7 Responses to “I Once Was Lost (About 30 Minutes Ago)”

  1. Mr Z August 13, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    I think that in some respects this is a silly thought, even as those who want a god are thinking silly. We don’t need a savior, simply the attitude that this will be an adventure in getting to know the neighborhood. When you believe that you are not in control, then you most certainly are not in control. When you give power to others, you will have no power. This is part of not believing in gods; having the control of our lives and keeping it rather than give it away. Worry is a silly thing for the most part. Take the adventure and carry on. You were hardly in danger, so there is no need for worry. Any given house has a phone that you might borrow. Any given passerby has information about directions. Silly to worry in that situation. When you find yourself giving power/control to others it’s time to rethink what you’re doing.

  2. Sue August 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    First, congrats on your new home, Amy!
    I do think lots of us turn to a god that we have created because of a feeling of helplessness. The gods change with the culture but the concept is the same. Desperation and fear lead us to create a powerful entity that is looking out for us (although reality shows us that this god does not do a good job of looking out for people) and also someone we can blame if we regret something we did (well, god led me down this road for a reason so it must be where I am supposed to be). I think that would be ok to have this god to cling to for comfort except for the fact that the people that created the god assigned too many rules and personality traits to the god. The worst of which is that anyone that believes in no god or believes in a different god or worships the god differently is not only doomed to an eternity of hellish torment but is less important while alive. If people want and need a god, the god is ok with me but I’ve got big problems with the religion.

  3. Rachel August 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Who wouldn’t get lost in suburbia?

    I grew up in Northern VA, moving out in my early twenties just as the housing market burst. New communities were being thrown up everywhere – labyrinths of houses that all looked the same, with typical street names and similar landscaping. If you aren’t familiar, I can completely understand how you’d find yourself in unfamiliar territory.

    I’m not sure how you’d equate it with your analogy…except that no matter what street you’re living on, the next will always be eeirily similar…much like the religions of today. In that case, give me the wilderness of atheism.

  4. Ryan August 20, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    First, thank you for allowing this post to reaffirm by belief in God, my almighty savior. I’ve been on quite the journey lately. Sort of like your walk in a new neighborhood, so too has my life kind of been a direction-less path. But, it’s a post like this that makes me think that I’m not alone in this path. I don’t need an iphone or some sort of internet grace; I need the highest form of mercy there is. I believe that Jesus died for me and has erased all my sins. I believe that in the most dark or lost places in my life, I can find comfort in His direction. Maybe this is not for everyone to believe, but it is for me. Why? I don’t exactly know, but yes, with all my heart, I know that God is there for me. That’s what faith is about — knowing what isn’t blatantly obvious. Seeing without your eyes takes on a whole new meaning. I love my Jesus and I know He loves me.

    • Cupcake August 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

      Ryan, thanks for your comment. I would ask you to take a strong look at what faith really is. It is belief without evidence. If you have evidence for something, then you do not need to rely on faith because you have knowledge. So when you say you “know” Jesus loves you or you “know” God is watching over you… You don’t really “know.” You have faith and belief but not knowledge. The problem with faith is that, if you don’t need to substantiate your belief system with evidence, you can literally have faith in anything. That is why there have been thousands of gods and godesses throughout human history. Most of them have been tossed away as humans have become more rational, more scientific-minded and more aware of our own history. The god of Abraham is just another in that long line.

  5. shoutabyss September 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    The human brain is a great sorting and categorization machine. It tries to make sense of the things that it sees. It is constantly processing everything.

    If you drop a cupcake and hear a loud boom, some level of your brain will be saying, “Hey. Are those two things connected?” If, by some weird freaky coincidence those two things happen again, the brain practically accepts the correlation as a law.

    The brain wants to make sense of everything, even the nonsensical.

    I think there are two aspects to a belief in God. First, children tend to believe that which their parents and those in their culture believe. Second, long ago, primitive brains trying to process the world they saw somehow came to conclusions, like the sun was a god. It’s been same old same old ever since.

    Real change in believe systems is extremely hard.

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