I am a Map Maker, and So Are You

Reality exists, as we can plainly see.

It is just there, a waiting vessel for our proclivities. It is a realm without rules save those of natural ones governed by molecular behavior en masse. An intricate webwork of electromagnetic conversation, we spring squalling from the loam of flesh into a gallery of light and sound and sensation. The world, consisting of new and frightening apparitions, whirl past us as wild static. The barrage of confusion soon coalesces into meaning as we gain mastery of our sensory apparatuses and locomotive capability; we quickly start to effortlessly process and respond to the packets of information received from the environment.

We exist in a world where information is alive, carried by points of information called individuals. Our early experience, quite often under the guidance of biological providers of our particular genetic code, are encoded into our psyche. The language of these teachers more than not involve specific religious and political cues which imprint themselves strongly on our neural framework, and these imprints are long lasting.

In short, we do not have total control of our own mental development during our younger years, but soon enough we are able to realize that we create the world we live in. It does not create us, and if it does, if we let it, or we simply don’t know it, we are just code following a higher social paradigm perpetuated by society itself. Tick-tock. Cogs. Robots. Trapped in our own belief system as provided by our parents and our particular range of experience.

Let’s say our friend, ah, Bob, is sitting at a cafe reading his Bible. As he munches at his lunch sandwich and sips at his iced tea, around him at various tables are seated a devout Christian, a Catholic, an atheist, and an agnostic. The Christian smiles indulgently at Bob’s proud public display of faith. The atheist may think thoughts ranging from the angrily derisive to the pitying at such self delusion. The agnostic looks on curiously, possibly with a slow, confused smile growing on his face, and wonders how one could determine which is true in a world where everyone claims their belief is not a lie. The Catholic, tossing down his napkin, snorts disapproval upon his departure to confession. An Muslim, by chance, passes by and feels deep-seated frustration and anger at the perusal of the man reading  the Bible. The crackhead across the street chewing at a week old chicken bone salvaged from the garbage, with gleaming eyes sizes up Bob, from his clothes and that nice shiny watch, as a possibility towards illicitly supplementing his drug habit. Bob gets up, Bible in hand, and checks his watch as he hastens to the nearest Satanist covent, wondering how the hell the devil got such a bad rap; fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C.  No one world through no one set of eyes is the same. That is the magic and curse of the Umwelt.

What we often do not realize… you can erase the damn map. Understand what you see is only the superimposition of your thoughts, beliefs, and values onto this shared reality. You attribute the objects and events with your own intrinsic meaning and emotion. Because of this, the world is wracked with pain, irrationality, hate, anger, and craziness in general, but it also accounts for the love, imagination, wonder, and spirit of Mankind.

Semanticist Alfred Korzybski has this bit o’ wisdom that will do us well to remember: The map is not the territory.

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