This is the character pair that means “to get lost” in Chinese:
A character is made of bits and pieces… Today we are taking a look at the first character of the pair, mi, which means “to be lost,” and also is used to describe a person who is an enthusiast or a fan. A music fan would be called a “music mi” and a charming person is called a “mi person.”
In this pair, though, the meaning is to be lost on the road. The second character is indeed the character for “road.”
Left side: the character part that indicates movement.
Right side: a phonetic piece pronounced mi, and the character for rice. But whoever thought of this character was apparently thinking of what it looked like, not the meaning, because it is a character that points in all directions. See the angles pointing in every direction?
When one is lost or wandering, all directions are equally possible. When I was in Junior High School, I was very fortunate to have a master art teacher, who inspired us to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art as often as we could. It was just a walk across Central Park, and on a nice day a group of us would troop over to the Museum.
We soon discovered that we loved to try to get lost. The museum buildings are many and cavernous, and cover a huge expanse. Floors, corridors, main rooms and side rooms abound, and in those days were not well marked. It was actually easy to get lost and wander through great halls of armor from the middle ages, coffins from Egyptian pyramids, French impressionist paintings, Asian masterpieces, and bronze statues of ballerinas.
Each room had its own dusty smell, its own set of colors, art, and image, and to our delight we lost ourselves in its treasures many times. There was a real contrast to how tired we could feel if assigned to visit a particular exhibit or those days when we just lost ourselves in the wonder of it all. Since then, I have appreciated the days when I had time to wander.
Wandering doesn’t have to be aimless. It can instead be a kind of meditation, and a chance to be awake to wherever you find yourself, and awake to the divine mystery around you, to befriend strangers on the path. Israel wandered in the desert for forty years before coming to Canaan, and Jesus wandered in the desert for forty days before returning to society to begin his work. Wandering is actually a spiritual pursuit.
When you are wandering you come across things you would never find if you hadn’t wandered. You may even get lost. But sometimes getting lost gives you lessons that you would never have otherwise. And you certainly gain a kind of freedom in wandering without a goal or task.
In Western society there is a profound push to work and to finish tasks. Tasks have become more important than the people around us, more important than our own happiness, and a way of living that is hard to shake. But I like to remember that when Elijah the Prophet wandered with no task in front of him, he found God speaking to him in a still, small voice on Mount Horeb. Likewise when Moses was wandering with the Israelites in the desert and climbed Mount Sinai, he met the divine presence in a burning bush. Wandering is a good antidote to the “task attitude,” a way to nourish the soul, and a fine spiritual practice.
Some thoughts to ponder:
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. ~Lao Tzu (570-490 B.C.)
Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart. ~Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.)
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” ~Matthew 8.20