In an effort to entertain my small, beloved progeny on a hot summer’s day, I devised a brilliant plan to take them to the Oregon Caves. The last time I’d been there, I was seven years old; in my childhood memory, it was fun. That was a long time ago.
Somehow I had no memory whatsoever of the trip to the caves, which is why I was so willing to return. I packed us up and plugged in the destination on our car’s GPS. The route appeared, clearly marked by colorful little dots indicating where we were and where we were headed. “What fun,” I thought. It was the sort of thought Little Red Riding Hood likely had as she skipped merrily into the woods that ill-fated day.
And, unbeknownst to us, it was into the woods we were headed. About an hour into the trip we were climbing a beautiful and desolate mountainside. The GPS told us we were right on track, the Caves just a few miles away. We wound back and forth, joking about the road, saying things like, “At least it’s paved,” just as the road turned to dirt. Something seemed off, but the GPS said we were on course, so on we went, dodging the largish rocks in our path.
The road narrowed to a single lane, zigzagging up the mountain. Snow appeared. The kids were excited about this but I was not, particularly when we were stopped in our tracks by an enormous wall of snow blocking our way. I got out. Six inches to my right was a precipitous drop off. Six inches to the left of the driver’s side was a wall of earth. In front of us three feet of snow and behind us two feet of slippery snow that we had just barely managed to crawl over with the help of a merciful snow deity and enormous four wheel drive. Now, it appeared, we were stuck.
Stupid? Yes. But beyond stupid, scary. I don’t scare easily, and I was terrified. We were stuck on the top of a mountain, in the snow, with no cell phone reception, no blankets, very little food, no flares and no one aware that we were taking this little trip. No one would hear the screams for help I was considering. GPS had taken us up a logging road into an enormous, remote and untraveled forest, and now we were stuck. Recent news stories of similar situations that had very bad endings came to mind.
It’s amazing how you think of all your mistakes in such a moment, how blatantly obvious your stupidity appears. It all came very clear to me as I stood shivering in the mountain stillness. I walked ahead to scout out the possibilities. If we could get past this iceberg, I reported to my husband, who was captaining our good ship Titanic, we might be okay. I got the kids out of the car and began to quietly, fervently beseech the heavens for safety and salvation from our potentially fatal stupidity.
It was a dodgy escape, but we made it — only to discover, after countless hairpin twists and turns down the mountainside, that the caves were completely booked for the afternoon. To the credit of humanity and compassion I will say that, after an unsolicited recounting of the entire hair-raising tale, the guides had pity and allowed us to have a 10 minute “quikie” peek into the caves, which seemed to completely satisfy my seven and four-year-olds — that and a souvenir. And so, with our plastic treasures and a year shaved off my life, we had us an adventure story for the books.
But there’s a moral to all this and if it isn’t already patently obvious, the moral is this: DON’T TRUST GPS. GPS acts like it knows everything and is smarter and better than you, but it’s not. It just acts authoritative and confident, but it will just as soon snooker you into the wilderness as get you to Starbuck’s.
It’s amazing to me how quickly and easily a person can give up what he knows, what he believes, even what he sees with his own two eyes for someone (or something) that asserts an opinion strongly enough or appears on the surface to be more credentialed, or more successful, or simply has the weight of popular opinion or “technology” behind him. We distrust our intuition and our innate wisdom and in so doing, we lose touch with a precious part of ourselves.
There’s comes a point in every life when one is faced with trusting oneself or trusting something external, and that moment is a defining one. “If you bring forth what is within you,” the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas says, “what you bring forth will save you.” Encouraging enough. But the rest of the statement should truly give pause: “If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” You might want to read that last statement one more time. It might be more than metaphorical.
Within each of us lie unique talents, thoughts and wisdom. It’s truly a loss to disregard all of that by blindly following something, or someone, outside of yourself. Others may know more facts about certain things than you do, but you possess two unique tools that no one else has and nothing else on earth can access: they are your intuition and your wisdom. These are powerful spiritual technologies, and only you can access them.
Put another way, the only way to get where you are going is by following your inner compass. To be controlled by the collective, to eschew thinking in favor of blindly following someone else (let alone a computer) is dangerous business. GPS might know the destination, but it doesn’t necessarily know the best way to get there.
We all have an internal compass: It’s called intuition. Listen to it and it will guide you in every way, to the places you need to go. And if you ever do want to visit those incredible caves, learn from my little cautionary tale: turn off the GPS and follow the clearly marked signs. They’re there if you look.