In the summer of 2015 a surveyor found a collapsed tent in the rugged Maine wilderness. In the tent was a sleeping bag. In the bag was a decomposed body. The nearby cell phone and notebook told the sad story.
Two years earlier, the woman was hiking alone on the Appalachian Trail when she needed to relieve herself so she stepped off the path a little way for privacy. She never found her way back.
She wandered around trying to get a cell phone connection to her husband, but could not. For days she was unable to find the path, so she setup her tent to wait for rescue or to wait for death. Two years later, her tent was found just a few thousand feet from the trail.
I share this story, not so we can second-guess that poor lady. She had a history of disorientation. To her credit, this lady seemed to have recognized that she was lost and so she set up her tent and waited for rescue. I share it because there are important similarities to us as individuals and as a culture.
In this age of post-modernism and post-truth, we are wandering in circles in the woods. We cannot find the trail. We doubt there is a trail. We are certain about almost nothing except that there is no home at the end of the path.
It is not that we try to be immoral or disconnected or skeptical about absolutes. We just can't find them. It is almost like this generation was born half-drunk and has never known what walking straight looks like. It is because the baggage we carry is real. Most homes are dysfunctional, even abuse. Education is little more than a one-sided conformist process. Media and culture are shallow and disconnected.
Because there is no immediate rescue, and many even doubt we are lost, we settle down to have parties in the woods. We begin to believe that we belong in the deep trackless forest abandoned in all the trees and underbrush, so why not survive and die together?! Who wants to die alone? And so we wander in our circles and wallow in our undefinable misery and try to make the best of things.
We use our cell phones, but all we get is another person wandering in the woods. They tell us about some cool thing here or there and we go rush to see it. Some group here or there carves out a niche and defends it and then seeks justice against some other group. In the end, it is still just a bunch of people and cultures and sub-cultures surviving in the wilderness.
At the end of the day or at the end of the work week, there is no point. There is no point of reference, no maintained trail with trustworthy signs. Where is the North Pole or the North Star? Everything is obscured in the clutter. All the trees look the same. The millions of distracting leaves obscure the sky. All the footpaths circle right back to our own tents.
I think many people would leave their death camp if they only knew where to go and how to get there.
Some people are satisfied with the confusion. They have learned to make money, gain power, or grow fame from the maddening, entertaining swirls of survival. They hate being alone, but they are addicted to doing their own thing.
Yet, I think the majority would at least like a glimpse of hope, of something better.
That is why I recommend climbing a mountain. Not necessarily a real mountain, but maybe that would help drive the point home to your mind. I am talking about climbing a figurative mountain to get a larger view of life. Sometimes we have to get away from it all and above it all to see it all in perspective. Because from a mountaintop you can see beyond the trees in your face.
You can see the horizon and even beyond it to know where the sun comes up. You can't see home, but you can find the direction that leads to home. You can't see all the details you will face along the way, but you gain a sense of direction that keeps you going through all the obstacles. Big goals need a big view.
Big emergencies also need big views.
The woods are on fire! (Here in the West, literally, but I speak figuratively.)
Tornadoes spin, hurricanes blow, earthquakes shake, and climates change! We are increasingly stressed, pressured, and attacked by disasters natural and human, economic and political. Unless you have a death wish, it is clear to see that things from the personal to the global level are getting worse and worse. There is an urgency that compels us to run, not walk, to the nearest safe spot. We need to get above tree line, above the fires, so we can scan the horizons and find the safe way home.
So come with me. Let's go sit on the mountaintop of the universe and discover something you already know. Let's see something so obvious that you will think you have not seen it before, but at the same time, you have seen it all along.