Let’s be honest for a moment. The West Wing is the best television show of all time.
And one of the best mini-stories in the series is, I think, the ‘Cartographers for Social Equality’ visit.
Some visiting scientists blow Josh and CJ’s minds by explaining that how the Mercator Projection Map (our traditional world map)…
distorts the relative size and position of many countries, making traditionally colonial countries appear more dominant, and how the Peter’s Projection Map…
provides more accurate land mass ratios. I’ve been a bit of a fan of the Peters Projection ever since that episode. When I organised an international conference earlier in the year and we decided to put a world map on the tote bag, I made sure it was a Peters!
It’s a powerful reminder that the frameworks we use to encode the way we see the world – the way we know what is true – are important. Because we generally forget they are symbolic frameworks. We start to see them, in themselves, as reality. (Except they explain it in a much funnier way. Seriously, watch the clip.)
So I was interested this week when I saw there is now a whole new map projection type! That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, meet… The Authagraph Projection Map!
(It’s not even new, actually, it was created in 1999, and it’s already used in all official Japanese high school text books, but it’s just been in the last few days that it won the Good Design Grand Award, which is what gave it more press and brought it to my attention.)
I stared at it for a while when I first saw it, trying to get my head around how very differently it presented the world. (Also, I realised that we really ARE quite far away from everyone else down here in Australia!)
So what does any of this have to do with anything?
We all create frameworks – maps – for how we think about ourselves, our journeys and our relationship to the rest of the world. We assign meanings and themes to the patterns we’ve experienced (or interpreted). We give more mental space to certain parts of our journey, and minimise others.
And we use those frameworks about what has happened as a way to navigate the way forward.
So what if our map needs updating? What if the framework is out of date?
What if the map of ‘who we are’ was true once, but now, there’s all kind of new continents of strength and experience and potential that weren’t there before? Or what if rising tides of undisciplined choices have been eroding what was once a strong, secure part of our character?
What if the pattern of failures have so faded away that they’re no longer a valid a reference point? What if you hadn’t actually noticed how far you have journeyed in overcoming that fear or weakness?
What if you need to rethink the map of your internal world?
What kind of adventures might you be able to embark on if you did?