The Lost River

The Lost River

Who are we?  Why are we here?  Those questions were put to the test this week on social media.  When the plight of immigrant children in detention centers became the voice of a nation, we reacted.

In southwest Virginia, there exists a Natural Bridge.  It was not created by man but by the planet itself.  Within the park of Natural Bridge there is a body of water with no seeming beginning and no apparent end.  A marker was put by this body of water in 2017.

About 1812, workmen from the Saltpetre Cave heard the waters of the Lost River, and blasted the opening to it that you see today. A water main was attached to transport water to the hoppers and kettles used to extract the nitrate from the cave.

Legend has it that, in later years, several unsuccessful attempts were made to locate the underground channels of the Lost River. Colored dyes and flotation devices of all types have failed to determine the source and final destination of this mysterious subterranean river.

“{Natural Bridge} is something like being in a church. It almost brings tears to your eyes.”
Dr. Norman Vincent Pealey

We have been trying to find the lost river since the dawn of time.  That innermost connection to ourselves, the essence of who and what we are.  Humanity.

“Mankind is poised midway between the gods and the beasts.” -Plotinus

Yes, we are.  Evolution would tell you we continue to climb that midway ladder.  It would tell you we are becoming gods.  Reaching, ever higher, to a pinnacle we see within our reach but can never quite grasp.  But we are becoming exactly what we want us to become.

Over the past two weeks, America exploded from within.  It has been building for a long time but the fuse finally reached the bomb.  It was not a physical manifestation but rather a conscious one.  It was a level of national cognitive dissonance at levels most are unable to dream of.  It took pictures of children, sitting in warehouses to shatter what was left of the American dream.

Social media took over.  There were three camps- those who wanted the children reunited with their parents, those who thought the cause was just, and those who chose to concentrate on what was around them.  For those who opposed the plan, it became the central focus of their thoughts.  There was no room for anything else.  Those who defended it felt it was okay to bring up anything they wanted.  Many established what some have called “whataboutism”, whereby any similar mistreatment of children was just.  What if they were all right?

We use 10% of our minds.  The human brain is a collection of nerve clusters shooting off electrical charges constantly.  That is what we are.  No more, no less.  We have the ability, unlike the beasts in the world, to make choices.  Most of those choices are based on our own inert need for survival.  When someone attacks our ego, we tend to react.  We made choices and for anyone to attack those decisions we have another choice to make- fight or flight.  This week we saw a lot of fighting.  We saw our true selves laid bare for all the world to see.

Journalism is not fair and biased.  It hasn’t been for decades.  When Walter Cronkite shed tears announcing President John F. Kennedy died on that fateful day in November, 1963, journalism changed forever.  But it was his words broadcasting JFK’s funeral the next day that truly defined the battles to come:

It is said that the human mind has a greater capacity for remembering the pleasant than the unpleasant. But today was a day that will live in memory and in grief. Only history can write the importance of this day: Were these dark days the harbingers of even blacker ones to come, or like the black before the dawn shall they lead to some still as yet indiscernible sunrise of understanding among men, that violent words, no matter what their origin or motivation, can lead only to violent deeds? This is the larger question that will be answered, in part, in the manner that a shaken civilization seeks the answers to the immediate question: Who, and most importantly what, was Lee Harvey Oswald? The world’s doubts must be put to rest. Tonight there will be few Americans who will go to bed without carrying with them the sense that somehow they have failed. If in the search of our conscience we find a new dedication to the American concepts that brought no political, sectional, religious or racial divisions, then maybe it may yet be possible to say that John Fitzgerald Kennedy did not die in vain. That’s the way it is, Monday, November 25, 1963. This is Walter Cronkite, good night.

America is more divided than ever.  The lost river seems lost forever.  The river that would lead us towards unity.  We are a fractured nation, hiding behind the pictures and words that surround us.  Far too many of us believe that by changing a name or a party we will reach that mysterious pinnacle that evades us.  Any journey toward self-enlightenment begins with the most innocent of thoughts.  It is what we pick up along the way that defines the paths we take.  We allow some to accompany us but cast aside those who don’t agree.  We throw labels at each other and fancy new words that were not even a part of our lexicon.

The American Dream died a long time ago.  Before screens and the internet, we lived in a country where news came secondhand.  It was not right before our eyes, in an instant.  We didn’t hear about the horrible things happening around us so we did what Cronkite said in his famous words, we imagined everything was okay.  Our innocence faded away the more we saw the realities of this world.  We could no longer ignore it.  Humanity, for all of its beauty and grace, was exposed with a flip of darkness.  Were we horrified by the darkness around us or the darkness within?

At what point did the battle become more important than the reason for the war?  When did we slide into camps of absolutism with no ability to compromise?  Why do we constantly feel as though the words we write are better than those before us, that we are winning the momentary battle but losing the war?

When I was a child, I heard a word.  Hosha.  I didn’t know what it meant.  I searched for years to find a meaning behind it.  I knew it was important.  A decade after I heard it, I found the origin of the word.  It stems from the Hebrew word “Hosanna”.  It is a plea for salvation.  For someone to save us.  We do this every single day, us humans.  We attach other humans and symbols to that salvation.  We want to belong while we alienate.  It is who we are and what we do.  Some believe that only God can bring us salvation.  When do we realize that true salvation must come from within?  Salvation can’t happen until you open the door for it.

No human being on this earth is God.  I have always believed there is a purpose in everything.  It doesn’t always make that purpose good.  But everything is a journey to find that lost river inside ourselves, that place where we can find the answers.  Will we ever find it?  Or are we all just meandering through the darkness searching for the light?  For the knowledge that our lives mean something?

Should we put forth effort to help those who are unable to help themselves?  I believe we should.  But when our words and deeds tear down others in our quest are we truly doing what we set out to accomplish?  No one is more guilty of this than myself.  What is the point of doing good if we hurt others in the process?  Are we that foolish to believe we are always right and everyone else is wrong?  We are so quick to assign evil to others while rarely announcing the darkness within ourselves.  We are more than a country.  We are more than ourselves.  We are unique as an individual made of the foundation of life but with our own coding.  We are assembled as a whole.  More than beast and less than the gods, we are human.

2 thoughts on “The Lost River

  1. Kevin, this is a very ambitious post. I need to read it a couple more times and think about it. I have no clear sense of how to deal with what’s happening. That friends, neighbors, fellow citizens, have fallen into the fulminating evil that is trumpism. And there are no buts about it, no possibility for a reasonable person to conclude that trump is OK, that the abuse of these children can be in any way justified. It is pure evil and I think we must find a way to have zero tolerance for it. Just think about those children, and the permanent damage that such abuse will be causing them….our collective shame runneth over.


    1. I agree with you Alan, but there is also a lot of collective shaming going on with both sides. Many are getting very ugly about it. It is getting to a point where I don’t even want to get on social media anymore. All this finger-pointing and labels and blame.


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