Brain Food #752
Throw away the map
Thoughts of the day
I ended Tuesday’s post by writing ‘the map is not the territory’, a phrase coined by Polish-American scholar Alfred Korzybski. The meaning behind the truism is that our perception and understanding of the world are limited by our own ‘mapping’ of it, filtered by our brain, our experiences, our very consciousness.
Without maps, we would be lost. We need a mental framework to help us navigate the unknown territories of life.
But the territory changes and constantly gets remade through the passing of time. Maps, literal and metaphorical, get outdated. The complexity increases when considering how all of us have constructed our very own map as a reference point. As Alan Watts said, “We know the world by a process of constantly transforming it into ourselves,” suggesting that our perception of reality is affected by our projections of our own inner world onto our surroundings.
Having models of reality might be helpful in navigating it, but eventually, any map can only serve as a reference point. No model can perfectly apply to any given situation. We should be able to take a step back, from time to time, to assess our maps, and reevaluate how true and helpful they are, whether they still contain all possible paths, and if we are following the right ones.
And we should also be curious enough to explore what happens outside the familiarity of our own models, beyond the fringe of maps, where surprises tend to happen; to throw away our maps, and see what new routes emerge. We never know what we might find.
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