21 May 2005

Mapping the known universe


Rand McNally folding laminated maps are beautifully developed creations. Fold them any way you like to get that all-important city squared up on the front, yet they faithfully spring back to shop-fresh configuration on demand. I have several but none can help me with my fear of the unknown. Recently I claimed a desire to try something new. There was a faint whiff of burning as I applied more thought to this. Is anything truly new and am I choosing it?

Rand McNallys are good but the ultimate journey planner would be some fabled life-map. But already the thought is flawed, if a map exists why plan for or against the inevitable? If all destiny is pre-ordained would it be possible even to alter the number of breaths we take? Inhaling just one extra lungful of diesel particulates may trigger the respiratory condition which carries us off. Or holding our breath as the truck passes could save us. The life-map is spread out before us in beautifully horrific detail. Do we genuinely choose our path or are the requisite number of breaths already programmed?

Proponents of either theory have compelling arguments. I favour free choice and influence with just a dash of pre-disposition. A drinker’s path is mapped with his first deep drink; a mountaineer’s course is charted with his first climb. Still their ultimate fates are not yet sealed. Opportunities will arise for them to reconsider their direction but if they are blinkered to choice heaven help them. What if they pick up a voicemail too late, “Knocked, you were out.” - Opportunity.

Frightening indeed if all that shocking knowledge of the future were available. What would be the point of aspirations? Why bother to nurture friendships? No need to save or insure. No gambles, no leap of faith, no risk, no time for grandchildren. Strike another day off the calendar, install a line of countdown code on your PC and check the remaining days with each boot. We are born and we will die. We should not dwell on it. No, better for all our sakes that we interact as if we were immortal. Living our lives in the subjunctive tense is the only way.

A little planning is fine though. To know where you are going, first you must know where you have been. Then you just might know when you arrive. Attach a strong rope to the known then journey towards the unknown. Steadily or headlong depending on your preference. I’m a cautious guy so I’ll make slow progress and take frequent backward glances. You may be impulsive, cut the rope and jump but I recommend you have a Rand McNally in your pocket.

I have road atlases of UK, France, Western Europe and USA (just in case.)

"She said 'I’ll show you a picture, a picture of tomorrow, there’s

Nothing changes its all sorrow.' Oh no please don’t show me!"
The Libertines – Horror Show

22 comments:

4005 N 24th said...

The older I am getting the more I see us as very unimportant in the Universe. Are we just proverbial worm food? The organized religious part of me says Nay....When I examine the activities of our fellow man I say Yeah. Robert Frost has stated it well.....

Copy and paste this link to Browser's address line for his great poem:

http://www.geocities.com/Paris/LeftBank/2940/frost8.html?200521

RuKsaK said...

The road map to life, eh? Isn't that what our elders are supposed to carry, but always seem to have lost it somewhere on route.

Life is a journey is perhaps my favourite metaphor - it's got so much meat on the bones -so many different motorway cafes to stop at.

Bloody hell - I'm doing it again!

Perfect Virgo said...

Denis - thanks for the link, the poem is very good. It comes back to choice then and not having too many regrets. You're right we matter very little in the end, the world will keep turning in our absence.

finnegan said...

But then you've got to factor in the element of 'good luck', which could be considered the residue of design.

And as to designs, maps are like the greatest of all works of art---both fixed and malleable---a result of the past as much as a pointer towards the unknown. What could be more compelling?

Perfect Virgo said...

Ruk - I like it when you do that, metaphorically speaking! I was considering the possibility the journey of life may already be mapped for us by destiny. Our elders seem to lose interest in passing on the wisdom of their experiences or are embarrassed to do so. I hope I don't lose interest too, motorway cafes are so appealling!

Finnegan - I'm hoping destiny has a lottery win planned for me, assuming that brings good luck (another debate!) My recent vacation to USA proved to me that the best maps are but pointers. I took some wrong turns despite the maps. I found that the detail on the ground was what the journey was all about. I love planning and organising, thats why maps attract me.

transience said...

i love the romantic allure of maps--the unequivocality of land masses, the long and winding roads, the points on the way that lead us to our destination. maybe we are all sojourners at one point, and maps are the loved ones that tell us that there are still so many more places to go.

recoveryroad said...

First lawn mowers and powertools for the garden...now maps....do your fetishes know no bounds, Sir?!

Cocaine Jesus said...

Maps?
Hmmmmm.
I have to confess, and I do this quite literally and have all my life, been given directions to a particular place like Manchester of Glasgow or wherever and then chucked the bloody thing out of the window and gone my own way.
It is utterly stupid and quite irresponsible to do I guess but at least that way i discover things and see sights that I would never have known.
I once arrived in Manchester at four in the morning having started out in London. It is a journey that takes at worst four hours (depending on traffic) and it took me more than six 'coz I went via Leeds.
It was stupid because I had a meeting at eight and that meant I had to get up at six in the morning allowing me only two hours sleep.
What the heck?
Yeah, I do love maps and I understand the point that you are making but sometimes, just sometimes, isn't it fun to do the one thing least expected, or take the route that is undiscovered.

"short cuts make long delays" but i love making 'em sometimes.
x

Perfect Virgo said...

Kenny - Everything to excess my friend! Maps are no exception nor is my methodical and organised approach to life, which they symbolise. Perhaps I should draw a map of my garden power tools!!

Cocaine Jesus - I guess my point is that I ought to try exactly what you suggest, 'chuck out my maps!' Break the habits of a lifetime doesn't come easily for me. I like your Manchester story, it sounds practically impetuous! I'll let you know how I get on with my first 'long delay.' When I've planned it!

Wardo said...

I've always thought that map or not, we're going to go where we are supposed to. That "free will" doesn't exist - we're programmed to do something based on our upbringing, genetics, and circumstance, and based on those factors, we would always do the same thing...even though it seems like the choice is up to us, we're as predictable as the movements of the stars.

-A

Perfect Virgo said...

Argus - you see in my post I conceed the destiny argument is compelling, as for me I think i favour choice with a dash of pre-disposition. I didn't walk in front of a lorry today although I could have.

Did I choose or was I following the mapped path? I think I made a rational choice...

Perfect Virgo said...

Transience - what about those beguiling place names which hint at their own past. The shades of green and brown, the curves of rivers and contours of mountains, all promise breathtaking beauty. Yes, romance is inextricably linked with both geographical travel and the journey of life. I love maps.

Trudging said...

I love maps too and you have a great Blog!

doughgirl said...

Wow you just brought me back a memory. I used to work for a publishing company and we made all the rand mcnally software and maps...boy oh boy I saw enough maps for a lifetime...

I personally like the journey :)

Perfect Virgo said...

Trudging - thanks. You have a rough idea where you are going with maps!

DG - you worked with Rand McNally software??!! Lucky girl. I imagine you can have too much of a good thing though. Seriously, the best feature of their little laminated maps is the way they fold back to original configuration no trouble at all. I like that.

transience said...

can i just say, perfect virgo, that your responses to our comments are as amazing as your posts. thanks for taking the time to answer.

Perfect Virgo said...

Transience - 'Amazing' is a strong adjective, thank you for saying that. Like you I put a lot of myself into these posts. It leaves you emotionally drained. A comment which show someone has truly thought about what I've said is immensely gratifying and prompts me to respond.

By the way I just looked at your new piece, Vodka and am considering a response. Being the shy, retiring sort I can't have my comment appearing too near the top!

V said...

Love Maps and Atlass. I eyed a pretty heave world atlas book at my best friend's house. Gave it to me. What a guy, ey? But then..

"Maps are cheating."

How sad when you finaly realize that you *may* just be here for that one time and what have you done? Dwelled too long on the non existing past and a non existing future. The present is often disregarded.

Perfect Virgo said...

V - cheating, eh? Thats one way of looking at it! I think my idea is in life we don't get that glimpse of the "way" so I look back a lot. A guess at where you're going is ok but take nothing for granted.

As for real maps I love how tangible and reliable they make the world seem. A hefty atlas was a great gift, nice one V!

Jen said...

Maps speak in possibilities and in the past both at the same time.

yours truly said...

I adore maps but only from home! While out there I want only the real deal. My friend is as scared of getting lost as I am of, let's say, l*ve, and always wants a map even if we're only taking the interstate for 100 miles - like you could mess that up?! My answer is always that "I've got a mouth and there are people in this world, I'll just ask for directions should I not find it on my own." Novel concept, eh? :)

Perfect Virgo said...

Jen - shrewd. You can only draw the definitive map when you reach your destination.

YT - you! scared of l*ve!! surely not!

I prefer to rely on a map and my sense of direction. I hate asking for help with anything. Your method of asking the way is an interesting concept and probably quicker. 100 miles on the Interstate, reckon even I could make that! (Whoa, was that our exit?...)