Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – email@example.com
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When I think of maps I tend to think first of Ordnance Survey road maps – my father used to have an impressive collection of these, which he used for route planning. They were reference items, they contained useful information, they told us the truth about the world.
Those maps no longer tell the truth of course, because, some decades later, thousands new roads have been built. But in fact they never really told the truth – or at least not the whole truth, because not everything was on them – I could not have used them to help me find a coffee shop, or a dentist, for example.
Maps of the world, because of their scale, have even less detail on them, and cartographers have to make all sorts of choies about what to include or omit from maps. And traditionally, the UK sits in the centre of the map, at the top, which is not at all appropriate for people living elsewhere in the world. And why is North always at the top? Why not South? Or why not put East or West at the top and the poles at each side?
I remember, after a snowfall, looking at the tracks my cat had made across the garden. There weren’t footprints everywhere, but there were clearly defined routes that it took for specific purposes. It would be interesting to draw a cat’s map of it’s world – it would presumably focus on good places to sit, hunt and urinate – and unsafe places with dogs or cat-haters who threw buckets of water.
And what would our own, personal maps look like? Suppose we drew a map showing not the places we know but the things that are important to us? Who would be on that map? How much space would they occupy? Would they be in the middle of the map or nearer to the edge? Would there be people there who are no longer alive? What place would your work and your hobbies take, and how big would they be? What about your spiritual side, would that be there? Alcohol? TV? Facebook? Sex? And you, yourself, would you be sitting large in the middle of the map or would you be squeezed into a corner?
I think we all have such maps in our minds, even if we are not really conscious of them, and we use them to help us make decisions minute by minute. Some people seem to have more than one map – people who have affairs sometimes talk about “living two lives” and it seems that they have two maps, which they flip between, like turning the pages of an atlas. In the same way, some people get very absorbed in their work or their hobbies and at these times other aspects of their lives seem to stop existing. Other people seem to hold huge maps, with everything on them, and this can be exhausting – there’s so much to think about, so many different priorities.
Our maps, as I said, are often held unconsciously – and parts of them may have been written and given to us by other people. However, by making them conscious we can give ourselves the ability to change them – they are, after all, our own personal maps and we can put what we want on them. If I want to move my in-laws to a far corner of the map, I can do. If I want to give priority to my physical fitness I can draw it large in the centre of the map. We can take control of our maps, we can draw our own picture of what is important, we can decide what features and what does not. We can decide what our lives will look like and what we will do with them.