By Rosalind Wang: Arts Columnist
Getting lost is a means to live lives. Rebecca Solnit wrote at the beginning of her book The field guide to getting lost: ‘leave the door for the unknown, the door into the dark.’ This book is haunted by this question: ‘how will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?’ This question, however, elicits another question: ‘what makes you go about finding this unknown at all?’ This unknown, unlike any other things that we lost, seems never to be ours. Finding this unknown is constantly riding ourselves of the familiar. Therefore, this unknown is not something that we lost but the experience that we are seeking.
Placing a coin on the palm, one can only see the upper side. This resembles our lives. While only one side can be perceived, life contains always two sides. However, we are not usually aware of this two-dimensional life. We perceive one side while neglecting the other. For us, the other side is always dreadfully unfathomed. Therefore, we become blind to the unknown side and are led by the side familiar to us. We are used to living in a familiar way, a way approved by everyone around us. We identify ourselves in this way. However, being comfortable with the known we miss out the chance to realize our lives as a whole.
As Rebecca addresses that ‘we are always living at the edge of mystery’. We perceive the tangible world but gingerly and unconsciously walk on the edge of the unknown. To live lives is to unveil the unknown. Discovering the unknown resonates with getting lost. The biggest problem in life is not being unable to know ‘who we are’ but being so familiar with ‘who we are’ that we lost the chance to know ‘who we really are’. As Rebecca says: ‘getting lost is the unfamiliar appearing,’ being aware of the unfamiliar is the first step to completing our lives.
Getting lost is not about geography but identity. We identify ourselves not in a familiar environment but the world of unknown as we are able to be aware of another side of our lives. Then willingly we fall into the dark and linger in the world of unknown. Here, like Virginia Woolf, we feel the urgent need to become no one, to shake off the shackles that remind us who we are, who others think we are. We take off the clothes and look at the mirror in which we perceive an unfamiliar image of ourselves. Here, we begin to build us, our lives anew.