Great-hearted visions and maps.

Most people in our family love maps. The previous generations loved them, too, and I treasure the memories and pictures of various father-son or sibling groupings around a map, planning a road trip or a backpacking adventure, or just getting a better idea of the world we live in.

Geography games including maps can also be fun, such as Global Pursuit that was put out by National Geographic in 1987. It was a little challenging for someone like me who isn’t sharp in spatial orientation skills, because the map of the world was all chopped up into pentagons which never fit together all the way.

global pursuit game

It’s easy to lose all track of time when poring over maps. One of my favorite parts of an unusual aviation ground school that was offered at my high school was studying the aviation maps pilots use to plot their course. In those days it was all done on paper, and I was fascinated by the concentric rings around airports, and all the copious information including odd names of towns in Texas, which was the area our school sample was showing. (The one below, I realize, is of Anchorage, Alaska.)aviation map

The whole concept of a map, a simplified form by which we can get a mental handle on a vastly greater reality, became useful for me in a different manner when I was introduced to the way M. Scott Peck uses it in his book, The Road Less Traveled. I have never actually read the book, but the the image of a mental/emotional map has served me well through the years. Some excerpts:

CHOOSING A MAP FOR LIFE – Truth is reality. That which is false is unreal. The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world. The less clearly we see the reality of the world–the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions and illusions–the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions.

Map of Life – Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.

I brought all of my real and metaphorical map history to this poem I read today. The poet is another woman who also likes maps, but her poem shows clearly the ways that they fail to reflect reality. That doesn’t bother her; even in their failure she praises them for the vision they give us, “not of this world.”

Perhaps we also don’t need to worry about whether our heart-maps are all matched to our surroundings. Might they also serve a great-hearted and good-natured purpose, so that instead of giving up on our inner maps we strive to bring the full reality closer to the vision? I’m thinking of our daily prayer, “Thy Kingdom come…” and of “Love hopes all things, love believes all things….” May the Lord write the map of His Kingdom large in our hearts.


Flat as the tableszymborska
it’s placed on.
Nothing moves beneath it
and it seeks no outlet.
Above – my human breath
creates no stirring air
and leaves its total surface

Its plains, valleys are always green,
uplands, mountains are yellow and brown,
while seas, oceans remain a kindly blue
beside the tattered shores.

Everything here is small, near, accessible,
I can press volcanoes with my fingertip,
stroke the poles without thick mittens,
I can with a single glance
encompass every desert
with the river lying just beside it.

A few trees stand for ancient forests,
you couldn’t lose your way among them.

In the east and west,
above and below the equator –
quiet like pins dropping,
and in every black pinprick
people keep on living.
Mass graves and sudden ruins
are out of the picture.

Nations’ borders are barely visible
as if they wavered – to be or not.

I like maps, because they lie.
Because they give no access to the vicious truth.
Because great-heartedly, good-naturedly
they spread before me a world
not of this world.

–Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh
The New Yorker, April 14, 2014

red slate map look
My two sons consulting a topographical map on a peak.

20 thoughts on “Great-hearted visions and maps.

  1. What’s strange these days is how hard it is to find a paper map. I got lost a few years ago coming home from a quilt show in Virginia (this was before I had a smart phone) and went into a drugstore looking for a map. None to be found. Wonder if that says something about where we are as a society!


    1. Frances, that is a scary story! I don’t have a smart phone or GPS or any of that stuff and I’m afraid I won’t be able to use it when I ever do get it. Not that I haven’t more than once used maps to go in exactly the opposite direction from that intended.


  2. I too love maps although I don’t use them very often. There is one on my stairwell up to our upstairs that I look at to renew my memory where in the world countries are. What intrigues me are the old maps showing name changes, behind which, if we are unaware history, so much is lost.
    I am so thankful for the spiritual map,the bible, God has given us to read and follow for I would be lost without it.
    Gretchen thank you for sharing your thought inspiring insights. 💜


    1. I wish I had more wall space so I could have maps on several walls. Sometimes when homeschooling we did have one on the wall of the bathroom. I should ask the children if any of them remembers picking up something from those particular maps.


  3. I really enjoyed this. I was glad to see Kelly had a map spread out on her dining table one day when I stopped by. The next generation hooked. 🙂



  4. Wow, Gretchen, you really are brilliant. I feel silly for not having subscribed to your beautiful blog before this. Your posts are huge gifts! Your writing is just exquisite, and I’m glad you do NOT, as the Mousewife’s husband suggested, “just think about cheese”… 🙂 . Thank you for sharing your inspirations! I am holding you in the light.


  5. You have mapped out a lovely contemplation. I enjoyed imagining the map of your inner reflections and wanderings represented in this tender and insightful piece. And what a fine poem you share.

    Your gift with segues is ever growing, and that may be the clue to “the problem” of categorizing what one writes; Gladsome Lights may deserve a full blown map.

    Mr. Peck, btw, may have got rather lost in his journeys, if his subsequent books are any indication.


    1. From reading some of his bio, it sounds like Mr. Peck was always writing from experience in having faulty maps and and misguided journeys.

      A map of Gladsome Lights – that makes me laugh out loud, thinking about how it sounds like just the sort of project I might tackle, and spend years of my life getting lost in.


  6. I’ve always loved maps and geography. I’ve even contemplated creating yet another homeschooling curriculum! (Does the world need another one?) I was kind of disappointed that my youngest wasn’t interested and thus didn’t retain most of what I tried to teach her. I guess that’s why I have this urge to create something that will capture youngsters’ attention. It would be nice if the world was as simple as a paper map leads us to believe. 🙂


  7. Maps are such beautiful things…. esp. maps of Narnia and Tolkien’s work by Pauline Diana Baynes… :)))

    I must admit that if Mr. Husband and I did not have a GPS we would never get most places… I get lost turning around in a room sometimes! 🙂

    Much love to you and prayers for you…


    1. I love maps of Middle Earth – I bought one I particularly liked and had it laminated, but could never find a place to hang it, so I gave it to one of the children. I don’t know who the artist/cartographer was….


  8. Good morning! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I love maps too, and have a grandson who would like a map of anything for Christmas! Have a great day



  9. I find maps endlessly fascinating, those of the real world and those of the fantastic world, like Middle Earth. They help orient me spatially. I pay the most attention to nautical charts (can’t call them maps, I’ve been told) when we are out on the water, constantly trying to gauge our position by the landmarks in view.

    We have Global Pursuit. Our family loved playing that game together.


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