The Process of Being Lost

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

The idea of being lost is one that is difficult to define - it seems initially to be totally removed from ideas of mapping or physical geography and to be a purely animalistic experience; one akin to a state of confusion. It is perhaps an idea more about interaction with others than on individuality; an idea based on a local scale rather than about vast open spaces.

The state of being lost is often a driving force behind modern artists. It can be seen as an obtainment of freedom from contextual information; this includes, the art world, market forces, and other personal stresses. This freedom promises the elusive elixir of artistic life – true originality.

To find this we must travel outside of all recognisable signs and symbols, and inhabit the land of the lost. This state can see as a doorway to another way of thinking, another way of living, and ultimately another way of creating. Many artists begin this pilgrimage on foot, walking as a means to explore the frontier in front of them. It almost seems counterintuitive, what with the whole world being mapped and their being GPS in cars and phones. It leaves very little, geographically speaking, that is unknown.

Yet somehow, there seems so much we don’t know about our environment and the places we live – perhaps because we get to experience less and less of them, whilst ‘seeing’ more and more. Maps, getting directions, orienteering and finding your way are all intrinsically tied in with the idea of being lost - but really loss is about the contrast between our internality and our externality.

In fact it is possible to define lost as being either external or internal. Physically being lost is about the relationship of knowing where you want to be, and being unable to get there. It is about the relationship between the self and our physical surroundings. These two states of ‘lost’ are the opposites of each other; to be externally lost is about knowing who you are and who you want to be, and to be internally lost is about having a heighten sense of awareness concerning your current environment and not having a social role to fulfil.

The idea of getting lost is nearly always portrayed metaphorically as travelling into areas of urban decay, ruins, uninhabited areas, jungles, deserts, and places unlike that of where we live. This image is a metaphor for the loss of contextual relationship to the external, but it can also be quite literal. To be lost, is a description of your state of being. It means that something was lost and that person has become subsequently isolated from conclusions. If a person looses a map, they become lost, i.e. unable to draw conclusions concerning which direction to walk. If a person looses their community, they become lost in concerns to their own identify that was, (as is human nature) determined by their context to others. Without context we have no directions as to who we are. We have nothing to compare ourselves. And it is through these comparisons that we determine characteristics such as funny, agreeable, determined - or even physical details such as, tall, strong, etc.

Thus attaching the logic to travelling to far-flung places in a bid to ‘find yourself’. Only when we are in a place significantly different from the original can we start to be aware of our former roles and place within that society – or at the very least, the role which we’d like to have.

Think about the people around you. What do they like? What do you like? If you don't like change and are happy with your environment, does that mean you feel defined by it? If you hate getting lost does it mean your sense of self is fragile? Think carefully as you step out the front door.