Monday, March 12, 2007

terra incognita

Being something of a mapophile, I love looking at old maps, especially looking at how new information causes the maps to change over time. As a young student, I took it for granted that maps were were based on facts and, as such, were neutral objects that told the truth about a place. It was only much later that I realized that all maps have a point of view that determines what and how they depict what they depict, and that this has the power to shape our experience of a place.

Some of my favorite maps are old maps that have large stretches of land labeled "terra incognita." These, at least, seem more honest. Sometimes I like to imagine my life like a big map with large portions labeled "terra incognita." As I wander through, bits are revealed and ever so slowly small portions of my terra incognita melt away.

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