True Places

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” Herman Melville

I’ve always taken maps for granted. They were useful, easily available tools. Until recently, I never wondered much about what it took to make a basic road map let alone to map an area never mapped before. Oh, so that’s something you can use trigonometry for – who knew? Lots of people of course, but not me.

I also never thought about the quite obvious reality that making a map involves choices. Of course there is the obvious – what is it going to be a map of? The world or space? What is its purpose? We might assume all maps are created to provide direction but that hasn’t always been true. Some maps are intended as art, with no pretension to accuracy. Some are created to transmit culture. After the purpose is defined, then what needs to be on the map? Maps are representations, not reality and a map of the local walking trails doesn’t need to include the details of the downtown subway.

“Maps are defined by what they include, but often are more revealing in what they exclude.”*

And then there are the blank spots. Some items aren’t included because they are outside of the area described, outside the edges of the map, but some maps include blank spaces, the unknown. Blank spaces can be scary (“Here Be Dragons) or they can be exciting. Blank spaces can be limiting or filled with possibilities.

I find this idea of blank spaces, of chosing what to leave out, intriguing. What if we looked at the map of our week (the calendar) and chose to create blank spaces? What possibilities might be created? What could happen if we omitted something on the list of things that just had to get done?

It’s possible that the most important action you need to take isn’t on your list. Maybe finding places in your week to think, breathe, be, is worth your time. Maybe the truest place on your map is the one that isn’t there.

*See Bits and Pieces for references.

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