ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Difference Between Map And Territory

For centuries military leaders have known the important difference between map and territory. During the ages of far flung exploits, it was said that he who held the best maps would win the war. As each of our ECO-Tours unfolds, we urge our guests to traverse on or many of tens of thousands of "backwater", dead ends, rooms at the back of the hall, or whatever form of "territory" we happen to come upon. Some forget that our own neural network holds billions of synapses, each devoted to, determined by and reveling in either abundance or lack of specific necessities of life within their very specific ecotones, ready and willing, perhaps uniquely able, to support a particular form of life, or not inside our organism. The electrical storm that constitutes our awareness is necessarily limited because our mapping techniques will always misrepresent the reality of the territory. The end game of ecological awareness is not so much to win a war, or exploit the territory in a traditional sense, it is to evolve our species into a more benign presence on the planet, to become facile and adept at providing the "best" life, for the most organisms, at the least cost.

Each place I lived, in one way or another, was at the back of a dead end road, The places that were the center of my world, inhabited by billions of external as well as internal wonders, abundant and lush, were pretty much at the least noticeable places on the map. In fact, even when I lived along major thoroughfares, my "place" blended so seamlessly with the landscape as to become invisible. Those who know me are aware that I like to be noticed, but not in the way many do. If I can help someone to step out of the mundane, get caught perhaps a little off balance, I feel that my work is done. I do not stick up like a trip hazard as some lazy buffoons might, but rather, I like to intellectually rise up out of the ordinary to say something worth considering, twisting a phrase so vigorously as to wring deeper meaning from it. "My way", is to describe territory that may, as yet, have remained unexplored. I explore beyond my own maps and encourage others to do the same.

Plunging into territory, especially the unexplored kind) requires a deep and abiding knowledge that you bring, in your bag of tricks, a creative approach to problem solving. Neighbors have affectionately referred to me as Macgyver, after the guy who jury rigs a girl's doll baby into an IED in one episode. When there is a conundrum they cannot imagine solving, they give me a call ant usually, through a series of levers and fulcrums, we get it done. Exploring physical "reality" is only one sort of region to explore, we are embedded in a matrix of territories so vast that to hold onto or describe only one tricks us into thinking that we are paying attention. No. To pay attention to any one thing, we must ignore all else. We have spiritual, mental and emotional realities that each constitute infinitely vast territory. Millions of us study discreet aspects of one, or a few of these regions, but the maps they are able to bring us are limited by their own unique experiences and vocabulary. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the more fully we define our specific "spot", the further we must push it from all else that exists.

When we wish to share our territory, rather than just maps, we face a very simple, yet unanswerable question, is the "other" seeing what we are seeing, or more importantly, are they experiencing the same experience? In most cases we must avail ourselves with the uncomfortable knowledge that they, in fact, are not. Perhaps it is the relationship that I have had to develop with the autist in me, that leads me to want to keep a hammer, roofing nails and a sign in my car that says FOUND CAT, so that I might post the next flattened mass of fur that I see along my ever changing route. By adding a specific texture to experience, we might hope that others will not necessarily become aware of our existence, but to question their own place and if they truly know where they are coming from. Virtually everyone you ever meet will have mapped out their understandings and relationships with everything from the word fish, to a pitcher, to just about every complex concept with which they have become aware. Only a handful have jumped headlong into the territory to see what else lies behind the mere perception, gone to the furthest back recesses of hidden wonder, examined what could be found, out of reach of even the most detailed maps, to come to realize that none of it can be seen by another.

My sister is one of these explorers. As a pathologist, she peers more deeply into the wonder of cellular structures than all but a handful of people worldwide. What she could describe would fill an encyclopedia, if only with microscopic awarenesses. The territory of fecundity, the infinitely abundant nature of the universe cannot be harnessed by language, but it exists. Through a series of intellectual forays, conundrums, interactions and re-births, I have come to "know" in ways that are hard to define, that the territory must always take precedence over the maps we draw of "her". What we plant, even to the extent of ideas will only grow in a nurturing environment that can provide the resources necessary for that "seed" to bear fruit. This is why we always begin ECO-Tours with a ritual and put them to bed with one as well. Transformation can only occur when we sanctify the territory and look past all of our maps.

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