Getting Lost: leave the door open for the unknown

8 thoughts on “Getting Lost: leave the door open for the unknown”

  1. I am excited to find and read this one. Thank you. My work concerns maps and loss and distance. I think this will be a valuable addition to my thought process and maybe an inspiration for next year’s blog writing.

    1. Anne, you may be interested to know that Rebecca Solnit’s most recent book ‘Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas’ (which I haven’t yet read) is described as a ‘brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas, examining the many layers of meaning in one place, the San Francisco Bay Area. Aided by artists, writers, cartographers, and twenty-two gorgeous color maps, each of which illuminates the city and its surroundings as experienced by different inhabitants’. And her next book, ‘Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas’, due in November 2013 is described on her website as ‘a sequel to Infinite City in 22 full-color maps and essays, exploring America’s deepest city through floods, sounds, memories, lemon ice, civil rights, and more’.

  2. “Half of what I say is meaningless,
    but I say it just to reach you

    So sang John Lennon on the Beatles White Album, the song being about his mother Julia, tragically killed in a road accident when he was 17, she 44.

    Half of what I say is meaningless, seems like a lament for the human condition that recognises our imperfection, but then he says , “but I say it just to reach you”, as if we are hopelessly fated to pour out our thoughts regardless and sort of hope that somehow through the fog of words, we get the messages across to one another.

    We get so hung up on perfection. I watched some of the Michael Jackson film about his album ‘Bad’ and he certainly seemed to strive for perfection, somehow I think at a price, a neurosis perhaps overtook him. At some point in life it seems that in all things there is a cut off point and its knowing where that point is. In films there are numerous examples. In ‘Good Will Hunting’ there is a scene where Robin Williams, the psychoanalyst, is chatting to Matt Damon, the potentially self destructive genius and he is joking with him about his late wifes idiosyncrasies, ‘she used to fart and wake herself up at night’, he says. Damon is in stitches and if you look closely you can see the camera shaking up and down. Fact is, Williams was riffing off the script and Damon was laughing naturally, the shaky camera was the cameraman laughing too, but they kept it in. Williams makes a living from uncertainty, he jumps in where most would not dare to go. (Andy Kaufman did too, a hero of Williams)

    But then imperfections come at us all the time. From Wiki,

    “Black swan events were introduced by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2004 book Fooled By Randomness, which concerned financial events. His 2007 book (revised and completed in 2010) The Black Swan extended the metaphor to events outside of financial markets. Taleb regards almost all major scientific discoveries, historical events, and artistic accomplishments as “black swans”—undirected and unpredicted. He gives the rise of the Internet, the personal computer, World War I, and the September 11 attacks as examples of black swan events.[2]
    The phrase “black swan” derives from a Latin expression; its oldest known occurrence is the poet Juvenal’s characterization of something being “rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno” (“a rare bird in the lands, very much like a black swan”) (6.165).[3] In English, when the phrase was coined, the black swan was presumed not to exist. The importance of the simile lies in its analogy to the fragility of any system of thought. A set of conclusions is potentially undone once any of its fundamental postulates is disproved. In this case, the observation of a single black swan would be the undoing of the phrase’s underlying logic, as well as any reasoning that followed from that underlying logic.”
    See this link for an enlightening interview with Taleb,
    I suppose we are a curious “two-brained” animal, in that we seek the regular and yet the irregular too. We try to map and classify as much as possible, keep in tune with the rhythms of life as our bodies have done for thousands of years, but yet our brains have become so developed in a Machiavellian way that we desire change and invention and creativity too and somehow we have a conflict of sorts within us. We want order and disorder. We like to visit the same pub, but we don’t want the same conversation! Though I guess it works for some things and not others. Hendrix playing a song, okay, but if they played Beethoven’s Ninth and the 1st violinist went off on one halfway through, questions would be asked! But I guess thats down to expectation. We are an animal craving certainty, happy within the revolution of our days, yet a linear creature that has to move on, escape, migrate in real as well as in imaginary ways. But in moving on we leave behind much that is inventive, but much residue too and 7 billion of us doing it is causing us a few problems. Lets hope there is enough ‘cracks’ in the world and our psyche to let the light in fast enough for solutions to appear.
    Curiously, I experienced a black swan moment myself a few weeks ago. I went for a walk up a steep hill nearby. I drove there, got there and changed my mind. I don’t know why. I drove to a water park instead, walked around and was totally gob smacked. For there swimming (do they swim? I think not) was a black swan, a real one. I’ve been back since and fed her, hoping her randomness will rub off on me! I say her as she’s extremely feisty, (how do you sex a swan…if that’s the right term?). She belted me with her wings last time as I got too close. (No a swan cannot break a man’s arm…urban myth).
    “The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” – Erich Fromm
    See also this magnificent short talk by Sir Ken Robinson –
    From Wiki again,
    Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, is a book by Nassim Nicholas Talebpublished in November 2012 by Random House in the United States and Penguin in the United Kingdom.
    In the introduction of the book, Taleb describes it as follows: “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”[1]

  3. This is exactly the sort of post I hope to find whenever I try to “go about finding that thing the nature of which is unknown to [me].” Thanks for introducing Rebecca Solnit to us. Good stuff.

  4. Thank you so much for this. I could read this book over and over and still find more insights to muse on. For me, embracing the state of being lost is to accept our mortality, our vulnerability, and our lack of control over this existence, which is in constant flux. It is spiritually freeing.

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