Get Lost

When is the last time you got lost? I don’t mean taking a wrong turn down a street.  If you live in Surrey, there’s not a lot of opportunities for an adult to get completely lost. Although (don’t laugh), about 15 years ago I got disoriented in the middle of Fleetwood’s forest, confused about which trail I was on and going in circles for about 20 minutes. When I emerged onto the main trail, it took me a few seconds to get re-oriented and recognize where I was. There is a power in uncertainty, when we’re not in the driver’s seat every second of our lives.

Many cultures have a version of ‘getting lost’ (going into the wilderness) as a rite of passage. In Australia, “walkabout” refers to the traditional practice of an indigenous male aged 12-16 going on a journey for as long as 6 months in order to take the transition to adulthood.  Some cultures just need one night: the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania have a ceremony and the night before the boys sleep outside in the forest. At dawn they return for a day of singing, dancing and eating.[i]

In some cases, freedom is given:

In Amish tradition, Rumspringa marks the time when youth turn 16 and are finally able to enjoy unsupervised weekends away from family. During this time, they are encouraged to enjoy whatever pleasures they like, be that modern clothing or alcohol. The purpose of this period is to allow Amish youth the opportunity to see and experience the world beyond their culture and upbringing. In this way, returning to their community and way of life thus is entirely their choice. Those who return are then baptized and become committed members of the Amish church and community, marking the end of Rumspringa (but they must do so before turning 26). [ii]

For others, such as the Inuits on North Baffin island, “outcamps” are established away from the community in order for traditional skills to be passed down and practiced by the young men and women.

Every culture marks transition to adulthood in some way. Here in Canada we see graduation from high school (and university) as a step towards adulthood, with a ceremony and cap and gown. But that celebrates a cerebral and personal achievement rather than greater integration and responsibility into the wider community.

One of the eight forms of capital, cultural capital, is rooted in society’s values and traditions. Sadly, over the past few generations in the West, we have departed from the time-honoured customs and rituals of our ancestors, and adopted a much more “it’s all about me” approach to life. [iii] Mark Morey discusses this in a two-part podcast about cultural capital and finding ways to connect ourselves, nature and indigenous cultures so we can work together on common goals. Mark writes;

People feel a lot of isolation. In the past culture used to take care of this for us — having to greet everybody in the room, having to show up for ceremonies, having to show up to pick food with each other.

And so now there are all these creative programs out there which, I believe, are a substitute for what culture used to do for us. We need to work within ourselves, then move outwards to our family and those closest to us, then to the larger community. Ask how can I connect with myself? What’s my purpose? What are my specialties? What are my gifts that I came into the world with?’

Human development is supposed to have nature connection all along the way. And there’s sophisticated ways that cultures do that at zero, three, five, nine, 11, 13, 21, 40, 75 – it’s just an ongoing non-stop relationship with the natural world through those human development stages. So, whereas at three while you’re learning to collect food, basically, and stay alive and learn about all the hazards, at 45 you’re questing for a new vision, because you’ve spiritually turned a corner and you’re back out there again on a whole other level.

Adolescent initiation in nature is totally common around the world, that we have to shift our identity from being egoic to being part of the collective and that’s a several year, if not five or 10 year process, depending on what culture you’re from. But it always begins with some kind of separation into the natural world; think about that. We’re going to help create our culture and one of the necessary transitions that all humans go through; it’s a doorway is alone in the natural world. In our current culture, we tell teenagers ‘If you’re going to make it out into the world, if you’re going to be part of the society, you’re going to have to go to a good school.’ [We] would never say you have to be alone in the woods for days on end fasting. ….there’s an expectation that there’s something happens there, a bonding.

And what does that do for us in the long run in terms of keeping health and wellness and relationship to ourselves in the natural world, is that everybody has basically got their own direct responsibility to it.

Life is not a linear path, all mapped out in front of us (though it can feel like that if you go to a job day after day that is not fulfilling). Getting lost, going off-roading with your plans once in awhile, can be liberating, frightening, disorienting…..but never dull.

Take a walk on the wild side sometime. Push your edges and comfort zone. Get a little lost as you navigate through the complexities of modern society. And if you want to get literally lost, try walking into the middle of one of Surrey’s larger parks, like Sunnyside Acres or Green Timbers and see what happens this spring.

Transition is a process, after all, one that we are all a part of whether we know it or not.



[ii] Ibid

[iii] Text from the podcast description

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