Monday, August 8, 2011

The Map

Ever since I have been a child, I have been fascinated by maps. For me, they have always spoken of travel, adventure, and a sort of hidden knowledge, only accessible to those who know how to read the language. A single piece of paper can tell you almost anything you need to know, as long as you already know the code. It is a textbook example of a self-authorizing language, if you can read it, then you have passed into that level of secrets.

As I write this, I have maps from other journeys on my shelves, timetables and maps to my girlfriend's house in my travel bag, and maps in the books I am reading. I use these maps to guide my life for the most part. Unlike people, which can be subjective, and accurate map never lies. As long as it is read correctly, you can always tell exactly where you stand. It also lets you know where you have been, and how much further you need to achieve your goals. When life is uncertain, as it always is, and the ground is shifting underneath you, sometimes you just have to move, and that is when you need to know the direction to go in order to make progress. Otherwise, you can find yourself wandering in circles forever, and never realizing it.

I spent the better part of this year more or less wandering. I travelled, and still plan on going further, but I never had a plan or a direction. I just went. I was moving through my life, but I wasn't actually happy with anything, be it what I was doing, where I was going, how fast I was getting there, or the fact that I wasn't really reaching a goal that I honestly did not have. I had the maps right in front of me, but I needed to grow as a person in order to have the knowledge to read them. That was the time period where I never thought I would be happy for any long term amount of time, and that caused me to realize that long term happiness doesn't really exist, but you need to seize joy in the moments. To some extent, I still feel this way, but I have a lot more of those moments than I used to.

You strictly speaking don't need a map to find direction. Mother Nature provides for those who listen, with the Sun during the day and the stars at night. I am not a man who believes in many spiritual things, but I have seen, heard and felt enough things on my own that I know there is something out there that can't be quantified. Something that, guiding is the wrong word, but lets me safely through, with much less hurt than I have any right to have. My friends have told me that my general approach to life is that I go merrily skipping through the minefield, and then act surprised when something blows up in my face. By all rights, I have made enough stupid decisions that I should have lost a lot more than I should have. I suppose luck is a relative thing. Some people ask for luck to win a million dollars. I would much rather have what I have, something, maybe luck, maybe something else, keeping an eye out for me.

I came to another realization as I was reading. I was questioning the writing style of the book I was going through (G.R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords) and indeed of the entire fantasy novel genre as a whole as being extremely unrealistic, and rather contrived. I mean this not for the actual magical elements of the story, but more for the way in which everything has a tendency to fall into place just as it is needed. It was not two seconds after that thought passed that I realized that it was a complete fallacy, and that my own life more or less proved it. When I need counsel, it has appeared, when I need money, jobs have appeared from nowhere. I know that I am extremely lucky. I have friends, family, and the way things have a tendency to land around me. It might not move me further on my career, but it would be foolish of me not to listen when the anvil falls on the path I was debating to take, instead of on me. These life changing events seem to occur just when they need to happen, but not before. It almost feels contrived on occasion. It is also simultaneously a very comforting and a very humbling thought to realize that someone or something is keeping an eye on you.

At this point, I can fairly well assume that you are questioning what this remotely has to do with maps and charts. In order to read a map, you actually need something other than the knowledge of the chart and the map itself. If you do not know the direction to orient it, the map is just another worthless piece of paper. For most of this year, I had the maps right in front of me, but I had no way of knowing which way to place them. Every time I looked up, whether it was day or night, it seemed like the sky was clouded. I could not use the sun or stars, my usual way of navigating, to tell the way. I finally reached the point about seven weeks ago that I looked up, and the the stars were perfectly clear.

After wandering for a while, I now have some sort of direction. The maps and the knowledge were there, but I just needed that one additional key. Now that I have that key, I can begin moving forward. Do I know where I am going? Not in the least, but I know where I have been, and I know where I am. Now is the time to move forward.

Until Next time,


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