A story that sums up the human experience for me is that of the prodigal son. This is the story of the overzealous son who wastes his father’s fortune and ends up destitute through his reckless travels. He returns home with the intention of begging his father to be made a servant, but is unexpectedly welcomed back and celebrated for his journey. He is celebrated because he lost himself through the trials and tribulations of being out in the world, but was found again on his return home. He was lost and then was found.
My biggest takeaway from this fable is that we often need to lose ourselves in life to discover our true nature.
How could we possibly be found if we don’t feel completely lost at some point? Moreover, what knowledge could we possibly have to offer up to the world if we have never gone out and lost ourselves in it?
Anyone can be a messiah from their living room—it takes courage to go out in the world and acquire wisdom by truly living.
The story of the prodigal son is a good metaphor for how we grow as human beings. Human development is a cycle. Along the path of our own expansion, there are moments where it feels like we are not growing at all—perhaps even regressing. It feels like nothing we are doing works out the way that it is supposed to, and we become muddled and disoriented.
I speak from personal experience, for there have been many times amidst my growth that I felt completely lost. To me, this is a necessary aspect of one’s progression as a human being. No one has the inborn wisdom to know exactly how to be at any given moment.
We learn through trial and error, and it is through our errors that we can begin to make adjustments in how we’re living.
It is the pain and confusion of losing ourselves that makes finding ourselves again all the more beautiful. This is why the prodigal son is celebrated upon his return. His father understands the tremendous courage it takes to go out and lose oneself in the world and the incredible humility it takes to come back home.
We are always looking for a balance between new and old. We attempt to keep things the same on one level, and at the same time, we attempt to remain open to change. The prodigal son craves newness after a life of familiarity, and eventually, he tracks back to his roots when the world is too much for him. Many of us are completely the opposite—we are so opposed to change that we will keep things the same until what we rely on no longer bring us comfort. Here, we are forced to make changes.
When we feel lost, it’s a sign that we are in transition; I see this playing out on a cultural level as well. There is a dark cloud over our society, and much of that has to do with the fact that the old institutions are dying and need to be revivified. It is the same on the level of the individual.
If we are feeling lost, it is not a sign that we are necessarily doing anything “wrong,” but rather that we need to introduce some novelty to our inner lives. When we make our return journey back to the soul, we come back with greater understanding and a deeper sense of who we are.
This has happened for me.
Over the past few years contending with a severe and debilitating chronic illness, I have had many moments in which I felt completely hopeless and without clarity. There have been waves of spiritual rejuvenation—as well as recurrent phases of disassociation and sadness.
I’ve been going through one of these darker chapters over the last few months, in which much of my behaviour and thought processes became pathological and unsound. I was corrupted by the deep sorrow that comes along with being a young man with poor health, and it manifested in my relationships.
This hit a crest when my emotional turmoil finally boiled over, and I hit rock bottom completely. This created a burning desire for fundamental change in me, and since then, I have felt a deep sense of openness and humility. As I feel more closely aligned with my heart, I can’t even explain the joy and gratitude that has come along in my return.
I needed to lose myself so that I could find myself even more completely.
We lose ourselves in the world, and from time-to-time, we remember that we’re intrinsic aspects of the universe. If we knew that we were God all the time, then we wouldn’t have a damn reason to do anything.
We must forget, so that we can remember.
We must lose ourselves, in order to be found once again.