Wanderers, Mapmakers and Mission

Imagine this….

There’s this Society of Map Lovers, devoting themselves to intense study of all possible aspects of geography and cartography – particularly involving “The Land” – a place to which they’ve never been, but about which (and about the paths to which) they have become experts. There are highly developed and articulated traditions about maps, mapmaking, which projections to use, proper legends and symbols, etc. They know all about it… though they have never experienced anything of its actuality. Never smelled the flowers, never seen the sunset, never tasted its fruit.

1640 map 18321379-europe-old-map


Meanwhile, certain unschooled people, “ignorant of tradition,” have somehow managed to actually find their way to The Land.

2018-11 IMG_6443 liz lost shore cali vista (Large)Funny thing: The Society neither believes nor is interested in their “stories.” After all, the maps contain the truth, which is not found in “personal stories.”

The ‘wanderers’ – some of whom were seeking The Land, some not – didn’t understand or even appreciate the maps’ content. They couldn’t tell anyone the route they took (certainly not with the accuracy that was essential to the map-lovers); maybe they couldn’t even repeat the journey if they had to. 

1994-08 NY Hiking 07 sib zeke isaac

Thus, their knowledge was dismissed as “subjective experience,” and, therefore, not dependable in any significant sense. Their stories had no place in the archives of the Society.

But the wanderers knew The Land, they had smelled its flowers, seen its beauty.

The Society members had no such knowledge… so they pushed aside the wanderers’ reports and ignored them.

The tragedy is that the maps WERE helpful to many (even if, frankly, their arcane debates on projections, etc. weren’t) and many people even used these maps to find their way to the Land.

1500s map 15th C Vinland map

The Society members, though, for all their expertise, never knew for themselves what it was like to actually LIVE there.

2018-11 IMG_6224 liz mendocino cliff sunshine (Large)

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