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Not lost, just bewildered

Daniel Boone was the most famous trailblazer of colonial times. He was an ideal frontiersmen because he was a crack shot, a skilled hunter and he knew how to survive in the wilderness surrounded by fierce animals and warring Indians. Boone was a pathfinder. He found a narrow path used by Indians for centuries from North Carolina through Virginia, Tennessee, through the Cumberland Gap and into Kentucky. His path became known as the Wilderness Road. He walked thousands of miles, mostly alone. He was once asked if he'd ever been lost. His answer: "No, I can't say as I've ever been lost, but I was bewildered once for three days."

Folks have been getting lost from the beginning of time. When Moses lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt after 430 years of slavery, they wandered out into the desert and the thirsty children grumbled. "It would be better to be a slave in Egypt than to die here in the desert." Moses counseled them to keep cool and keep following. Well, it was a long trip. They wandered around in the Wilderness of Sin and in the desert for 40 years before they arrived at the Promised Land. The entire distance couldn't have been over 500 miles (farther in kilometers of course). Moses may have been bewildered at times, but he wasn't lost. He was following a spiritual compass.

What made me think about getting lost was not a trip to the wilderness or the desert, but a concert I went to the other night. There was a quartet of very talented musicians playing stringed instruments: two violins, one viola (slightly larger and slightly lower than a violin) and a cello. They were outstanding and they played a bit of longhair music, but mostly stuff I could appreciate. Half way through one song, the viola player -- sitting right in front -- reached for his music (it was loose leaf, not bound) and starting flipping sheets looking for a page he couldn't find. He tried playing a few bars without it, but he couldn't make it. No question about it -- he was obviously lost. He finally found the missing page just before the end and finished in grand style. He was clearly embarrassed and I could see him explaining and apologizing to his partners after the song.

When I played in the high school band I got lost many times -- with the music right in front of me. Sitting back there in the trombone section I was sure nobody could see me. But by the time we'd rehearsed and rehearsed and got to the concert, I usually knew where we were in the music although that usually didn't translate into good playing.

Drivers get lost all the time. Men drivers have unfairly been ridiculed as never admitting they're lost and stopping for directions, but we all know that's fiction. Now many autos have global positioning systems (GPS) with voice directions built in, but sometimes even the GPS gets lost.

To keep from getting lost in the wilderness there is always the magnetic compass. When the needle points to the magnetic north, then south, east and west just fall into place. Folks get lost because they either have no compass or get bewildered and refuse to believe what their compass is telling them. I don't know whether Daniel Boone had a compass, but I have a feeling that Moses had a heavenly GPS.

The best way to avoid getting lost is to have a map and a clear idea what your destination is. Then you read your map and compass accordingly. But you may need more than one compass. There are moral and spiritual compasses as well. Elliot Spitzer, a husband and father, for example, knew that he wanted to be Attorney General of New York, Governor of New York and hold other high offices beyond that. But he had no moral compass (or disregarded it if he had one), fell into doing business with prostitutes and got lost. He lost his job as well.

More recently, we have just learned that the great Yankee third basemen, Alex Rodriquez just admitted that he took steroids to heighten his athletic performance levels in 2001-2003 when he played for the Texas Rangers. He confessed because he had no choice. After denying the use of steroids for years, his name was released from an official list that was supposed to be kept confidential. "A-Rod" (now called "A-Fraud" by some and "A-Hole" by others) was already the greatest player in the game. His baseball compass told him he was under tremendous pressure for having to prove he was worth his ten year, $252 million contract. His moral compass was not under contract so it wasn't working. May Rodriquez, Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa (probably) and countless other juiced up cheaters remain forever lost in the wilderness of baseball history and never reach the Hall of Fame.

The moral of the story is this: We all get bewildered from time to time and get tempted to wander off the trail. That's the time to stop and check our maps, our music and not just one, but all of our compasses to make sure we don't get lost to the point of no return.