Christmas present of 2007 in Sweden according to the Swedish press is a GPS receiver.
If anyone should be happy about the news it is me, since time after time and again I show signs of an orientationally challenged person (wrongly) recognising places I have never been to before and persistently getting lost a block away from home. Yet I am not thrilled about “the choices of the Swedish people”. First of all, I didn’t get a GPS receiver (none of my Swedish friends did for that matter). Neither did I get last years’ presents – a flat screen TV or a DVD player. This is rather frustrating but I keep saying to myself that one year I just might get it all. Retroactively.
My major concern is though of a different kind. Since Swedish people (an apparent generalisation but I stand for it and so do many Swedes I talked to about it) are not on the easy side starting a conversation with a stranger, the know-my-way-around-and-don’t-you-dare-disagree-with-me machine and the smart mobile phones with a GPS function deprive us of the opportunity to actually have to ask someone for direction and in that way initiate an interaction that had not been scheduled in the Filofax weeks in advance. Even trips abroad, when getting lost and having to ask the locals for directions and that bring at times awkward but always colorful people and language encounters, will not be as fun any longer.
The machine in itself is of course of no danger. It is the idea behind and how we put the machine to use (use or abuse?) that make the difference. Knowing exactly how to get to where we are heading might be very efficient timewise but it also makes those accidental deviations from the route redundant. We might end up with a norm that the efficient way is THE way. We might start looking at those off the track experiences as mistakes forgetting it is precisely those small accidents that often become a source of inspiration and help us rediscover the connection between us all, seemingly strangers to each other. Getting lost is when we can learn more since this is when we perceive ourselves as more vulnerable and when we can see things and people with new eyes. If there is any point in this all, it is not in not getting lost but in getting back on the track, to what one holds dear and truly believes in, at least for that particular time. I believe it is impossible to know for oneself when one is on the wrong track until one actually steps away from it (even if by accident).