To be close to another person who holds opposing views while being a deep, committed friend can be a wonderful, shaping influence*
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
The question then is how to get lost. Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognito in between lies a life of discovery.**
On the other side of the coronavirus, we will need a great effort to reach out to one another in person. We have found it possible to Zoom (other video call providers are available) one another for so many tasks and reasons, and we’ll likely carry on in this vein for many of these into the future.
While such ways and means for staying connected have been quite marvellous in lockdown, the big picture is likely to be one of relational contraction. While I believe the future is connection, this needs to be increasingly conversational connection.
Sherry Turkle shares from her research on the use and effects of social technology:
A twenty-four yearly woman who works at a start-up tells me she is no longer able to focus on one thing or one person at a time. And that’s the problem with conversation; it asks for skill she can no longer summon.^
Conversation makes it possible to enter each other’s world and become lost in what can be quite alien to us. Part of this, according to Rainer Maria Rilke involves admitting that these other worlds exist – this world isn’t just as I see it but it includes:
I and the one who is most different from me. And only when such a complete world is admitted to and considered possible will one succeed in arranging one’s own interiority with its internal contrasts and contradictions generously, spaciously, and with sufficient air to breathe.*
Interestingly, Rilke connects this allowing for different world’s outside of our own being necessary for the ordering of different worlds inside our life. The person who is at war with others is at war within themselves.
There are many ways for getting lost in order to discover worlds unknown to us, but the simplest and most available to us is conversation. Here are three things to try next time the possibility of a conversation is available between you and a stranger:
Seek to discover what they know, to understand what they feel about these things, and then imagine something that it may be possible for you to collaborate on together.
(*From Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters on Life.)
(**From Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.)
(^From Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation.)