Like many other hikers in the summer of 2013, Geraldine Largay walked north on the Appalachian Trail. Her goal was the finish line on Mount Katahdin, Maine, then husband and home. More than 200 miles from the end, Geraldine stepped off the trail to relieve herself. She never found her way back. She never returned home.
Two years later, a crew filming nature scenes in the wilderness stumbled upon an old tent with something inside. A warden soon arrived and uncovered the skeletal remains of Geraldine, along with her cell phone and notebook.
The story had been written and typed. For 26 days the hiker had tried to find the trail or a high spot to get a cell signal. Having given up hope of freeing herself, she had settled down to await rescue. Meanwhile, her food ran out. Geraldine passed away in her sleeping bag in her tent.
This poor woman's experience is real and instructive, because in a way we are all Geraldine.
We all want and look for love, family, and home. Our lives are a continual pursuit after these goals and a perpetual protection of what we may already have.
To reach our goal we follow trails. We follow patterns of behaviors and rules that we believe will best help us make the most progress. Even on our death beds we do not stop wanting these valuable things.
Along the way we need to take care of our needs, or we just need a break, or we get distracted. We step off the trail and then many of us wander in the random trees and leaves and bushes unable to return to our exit point.
That's all right, some think, because there are many others out here wandering in the dense forest of life. So they party, work, marry and raise families in the towns they build in the woods. Generations grow up thinking it is normal to live in the directionless, random expanse. Meanwhile, true happiness is never experienced because the true goal is unrealized, forgotten, even scorned as a fairy tale.
Returning to Geraldine's experience, we discover that she started out with a friend who had a much better sense of direction than she had. However, the friend left due to a family emergency and Geraldine decided to continue alone.
Now the question is raised, Could the friend have saved Geraldine? Maybe, maybe not. Just like in life, we not only need the ability to follow a trail, but we also need to know which is the right trail.
In the towns the wanderers built in the forest, religions and philosophies sprang up to make new trails or to keep the memories of the old ones. Scientists of various disciplines became expert at making trails that successfully moved people from town to town. However, no one ever stood on the mountain at the end then returned to tell the people which trail took them to the top. The wandering and the debating never ended.
Geraldine tried a very good thing when she climbed hills to get cell signal. We also need to climb as high as possible to communicate with the One who lives in the home on the mountain of mountains. We need to climb our mountains to get a view of the network of trails. We need the big picture so we can figure out the correct trail.
Science and religion offer us patterns of knowledge that work in limited situations, but we need to see the pattern of patterns—how they link, where they go, what is needed to travel on them. There are many "friends" who willingly offer us advice (sometimes for a fee$$), but who has been to the mountain home and back? Who can we trust to tell us the right way? We need to be experts at sorting out the experts from the well-intentioned from the deceivers.
So how do you know if I am an expert and this book is true? You don't, but neither am I asking you to believe or trust me. I merely want to show you a map as big as the universe itself and milestones as sure as history. You do not need to buy any special tools from me or anyone else to read this map. Spend a few hours considering and discussing the ideas in this book and you will see for yourself.
That is my goal in this book, that you see for yourself.
Ponder the questions sprinkled throughout these pages, then discuss, experiment, decide. After all, it's your life to live, your trail to hike, your love and family and home to find, or not.
This book is deep because it is based on choice. It is written for thinkers, not for those who react to hype. I do not write for those who seek approval from those who pose as thinkers, but who are really just conformers themselves.
No, I write this for those who are willing to view and weigh evidence on its own merits. I write for those who are willing to step back all the way to zero and look at everything afresh.
To build your own foundation as broad as the universe and as deep as the soul is a wonderful, empowering process that involves growth, mistakes, and humility along the way, but delivers immortal confidence and success in the end.
May you be richly challenged and rewarded, burdened and blessed as you seek, find, and walk the trail of life to our ultimate home on Mount Infinity.
Quotes and Questions
“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.” ― Chuck Palahniuk
“Learn to see the big picture. Often times we get tunnel vision and lose sight of the big picture and what we're really trying to accomplish.” — Robert Cheeke
“If we climb high enough, we will reach a height from which tragedy ceases to look tragic.” ― Irvin D. Yalom
“Child, you have to learn to see things in the right proportions. Learn to see great things great and small things small.” ― Corrie Ten Boom
“However tight things are, you still need to have the big picture at the forefront of your mind.” — Richard Branson
“You're going to make mistakes. The key is to learn from them as fast as possible and make changes as soon as you can. That's not always easy to do because ego and pride get in the way, but you have to put all that aside and look at the big picture.” — Tiger Woods
The big picture and the details that make it often have tension between them. How do they relate? How do you keep them in balance in daily life?
Take time to read the map! Why "waste" time on the big picture when I have viruses, riots, unemployment, family issues, and tons of daily annoyances to deal with? Because you need a map to help you navigate them. Sometimes those things need to be avoided. Other times they need to be met head on. Life is a journey. Would you start a long trip to an unknown destination(s) without first studying a map?