f e a t u r e wealthy man’s son decides to venture out on his own. He demands his share of the inheritance, which his father gives him. Through luxurious living the son squanders his inheritance and finds himself broke. The son is reduced to eating slop with hogs. As he considers his options, he thinks, “Even my father’s servants live better than this. I’ll go ask my father’s forgiveness and maybe he’ll at least take me back as a hired hand.” When the father sees his son coming he orders his servants to kill a fatted calf and prepare a feast. He runs to greet his son, and before the son can recite the apology he has been rehearsing, the father slips a family signet ring on his finger, embraces, and kisses him. The son’s older brother, who has dutifully stayed home working for his father, is pissed. In response, the father implores: “Rejoice with me, for my son was lost, and is found.” Lost? Found? If you asked the son, might he have said he was never really lost—Just out to try his wings? But to the father he was. To his brother, he was likely not lost enough and too much found. And might we say that the older brother had lived his whole life found? Or must one be lost before one can be found? I know that sense of being lost myself, with a terrible visceral feeling, a rush of unwelcome adrenalin. I have perhaps the worst sense of direction in human experience. When the GPS device became widely available it was as if it had been invented for me. My wife Lacey is only a slightly more gifted “directionalist” than I. We joke that if we come to an intersection and agree which way we should turn, the odds are that the other way will get us where we mean to go. I was driving to the airport several years ago; a drive I have done scores of times. I came to a familiar intersection and drew a blank. I experienced what I imagine it might be like to have a stroke, a blockage of blood to a part of the brain that tells you where you are and how to proceed. Not merely that I wasn’t sure what to do next, whether to turn right or left, but as if I was an alien who had wandered into an alternate universe in which things looked familiar, but provided no clues by which to navigate. I sat in the left lane, motionless at the wheel, staring ahead blankly. Lacey looked over at me and asked, “Are you going to turn?” “I don’t know,” I answered. “Should I?” “What do you mean, should you?” I took that to mean I should, and I did. Something in making the turn restarted my directional computer, and I
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proceeded. Lacey wanted to know what had happened. When I told her From the parable of the Prodigal Son. Christi I was lost, she scoffed. “How could you have gotten lost at a place you have been many times?” I could only tell her that I found the sensation of being lost terrifying, and of being found, after making the turn, as profoundly worthy of celebration as the father in the parable had felt. When I was a parish priest, I buried a young man who had a promising start as a writer. He died of alcoholism. “He lost his way,” his mother told me. I wondered how that must have felt, and what it might have taken for him to have found his way. I took it to heart more than most of my burials because I thought I might have understood his lostness, and how it might have caused him such despair. Just a few days ago, as I was readying myself for my family’s annual migration from California to Vermont, I transferred a pair of tired, grubby, wax ear plugs, essential for sleeping while flying, from the plastic box I keep them in next to my bed, to another smaller, easier for travel, box. A few minutes later I couldn’t find it. Anywhere. On and off the rest of the day I wandered room to room randomly uncovering pieces of paper, opening drawers, emptying pockets As I searched, increasingly frantic, I began to accuse myself (You’re a hopeless asshole!), wondering whether the long expected onset of senility was underway. After most of the day pretending I wasn’t really looking, casually lifting books and pieces of paper as I went by (so Lacey wouldn’t figure out what I was doing), the little box jumped onto the end of the guestroom bed just as I passed by. I had looked there at least a dozen times. I would bet my life it wasn’t there five minutes earlier. Another cosmic trick calculated to shake my confidence. And to remind me, those miserable ear plugs, that no matter how anally I organize myself, I am lost here. When I found the ear plugs I rejoiced. Silently, so Lacey wouldn’t catch me. Rejoiced all out of proportion to the objects’ significance. I understand lost. It describes the situation an honest realist recognizes as “normative.” In order not to be lost one must have perspective; to view the entire landscape at a glance; know where things are meant to go. Our species is immersed in the landscape, we are a part of it. We cannot see it all any more than we can remove our eyeballs, turn them around, and stare back at ourselves. And as for finding the finish line… Why do you suppose we create so many illusory, arbitrary finish lines: races, graduations, anniversaries, deadlines (interesting word, deadline)? Perhaps so we can play author of this Story in which we in fact play an essential, but bit, part. Murkier even than lost, is this notion of found: Amazing grace how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me I once was lost but now am found Was blind but now I see by Blayney Co
This my son was lost
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Vision Magazine is your monthly Holistic Community Resource.