A lost commandment? Thou shalt not get off track

I was sure sorry to see of the passing of the famous actor Charlton Heston a couple of weeks ago. I especially liked him as Moses in the movie “The Ten Commandments.” Moses lived to be 120; Charlton Heston, a mere 84.

I was sure sorry to see of the passing of the famous actor Charlton Heston a couple of weeks ago. I especially liked him as Moses in the movie “The Ten Commandments.” Moses lived to be 120; Charlton Heston, a mere 84.

In a way, his Moses movie was about God’s own top-ten list. (“Top Ten Things Not to do if You Want to go to Heaven.”) Especially impressive was the scene where Moses parted the Red Sea so his fellow Israelites could walk right on through. If a modern guy could pull that off, we wouldn’t have to worry about replacing the 520 bridge.

The other cool scene was when Moses brought the tablets with the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai. My dad always used to say that if Moses had met me, there would have been Eleven Commandments. I was never quite sure what he meant by that, but I always took it as a compliment.

Moses was a great guy, but he seems to have had a poor sense of direction. After all, he led the Israelites around in the desert for 40 years. Some people think it was because he was lost. (“Hey, Moses? Didn’t we pass by this same palm tree eight years ago?”)

In his defense, there weren’t many road signs in those days – especially in the Sinai desert – and since there were no AM/PMs, road maps were hard to come by, too. But 40 years?

I got lost one time trying to find a sports bar in Auburn, but it was just for 40 minutes, not years. Not only did I arrive too late to see the first two innings of a televised Mariners game, but I also completely missed happy hour.

The planet Earth is a big place. But even if it were only a fraction of its size, people would still get lost on it. They say the average person spends a third of their life asleep. A good part of the other two-thirds is spent being lost, some of it in thought.

The great explorers – Columbus, Magellan, Balboa and Buxton – generally didn’t know where they were going. By the way, if the name Buxton isn’t familiar to you, he’s Dave Buxton, a guy I knew in high school. He wasn’t really an explorer, but he drives one – and I know he’ll get a kick out of seeing his name in print.

Marco Polo spent a great deal of his time being lost, even as his men tried to find him by calling out his first name – and waiting for him to yell out the second part. The dictionary says that Polo “was a Venetian explorer,” but as far as we know, he never found the blinds he was looking for.

The Scottish explorer, David Livingston, got lost in Africa. When Henry Stanley finally found him, he famously said, “Dr. Livingston, I presume?” To which Livingston replied, “Yes? What can I do for you?” To which Stanley answered,

“I’m from the Publisher’s Clearing House, and do I have good news!”

Even the great explorers Lewis and Clark spent a good amount of their time completely directionless. Luckily, they had Sacajawea along, who not only kept them moving straight along the banks of the Columbia River, but listened to their most incessant question: “Hey, Sacajawea? How come the people on this side of the big river can pump their own gas, but the people on the other side have to let someone else do it for them?”

I saw an intriguing article from the Washington Post recently. It was bidding farewell to habits, fashions and ideas that will soon be no more. In addition to things like cash (swiftly being completely replaced by credit cards), having the blues (with the rise of medications like Zoloft) and short basketball shorts, the article mentioned something else that is quickly becoming passe: Getting lost.

Nowadays, the article says, MapQuest is a verb – and no matter where you are, there is likely to be a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit nearby. Not only are GPS units useful in automobiles and cell phones, but people are using them to keep track of pets, kids and Uncle Carl.

I, for one, don’t greet the new technology eagerly. Frankly, getting lost is something that I’ve always been good at, and it saddens me that GPS might rob me of that. It reminds me of how I felt when I finally got pretty good at the video game of “Pong,” and then Atari came out with “Asteroids.” My skills were instantly obsolete.

Meanwhile, if someone ever figures out how to make a GPS keep more important things from getting lost – like car keys, TV remotes, single socks and virginity – then they’ll really be on to something.

Pat Cashman is a writer,

actor and public speaker.

He can be reached at

pat@patcashman.com


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