Off-Beat - Week 4

As I began climbing Garfield Peak, this is the picture of Crater Lake that I had in my mind. Gorgeous isn’t it?!

This is the Crater Lake I saw.

Basically as the expanse of blue haze because of smoke from the forest fire. While feeling bad for myself, I became acutely aware of a thought loophole. The image of crater lake that I believed to be exact was someone else’s description of Crater Lake on a fine sunny day.

“The map appears to us more real than the land” - D.H. Lawrence

In 1931, in New Orleans, Louisiana, mathematician Alfred Korzybski presented a paper popularizing the idea that the map is not the territory. Any map is just an abstraction of reality and is necessary to learn about the territory. However, even the best maps have limitations.

Every model or map, or description is created by making assumptions or by using limited parameters. Like in the case of Crater Lake, reality has almost infinite parameters. A variance in one parameter (smoke from a forest fire) can alter reality.

Our mind often skips limitations without questioning and absorbs the map as the accurate description of reality.

For example, we often put too much trust into what polished news anchors keep babbling on News Channels (stop watching the news!) and believe that their description of the reality of a situation thousands of miles away is accurate. We form the majority of our perceptions and beliefs by trusting the description of reality.

We often look at the map and believe it to be the territory without ever stepping in it.

Another example is when marketing propaganda talks about the benefits of a product by displaying quotes from people who have experienced the benefits (The Map). The propaganda skips details of people who did not like the product or had a bad experience. It skips the details on the characteristics of people who found the product useful. (The territory). Think of all the products you purchased after great recommendations and found mostly useless or even harmful.

We confuse the description of reality with reality because we are too afraid to say “I don’t know,” something that I touched upon in my first blog. We are often afraid to step into the territory and experience reality.

Descriptions or Maps have an aesthetic value. A picture, a book, a narrative, a documentary, a movie, a poem, an essay, a video - all have tremendous aesthetic value and are important. The problem occurs when enamored by aesthetics; we stop questioning the description.

My challenge to you: Catch yourself getting enamored by the aesthetics. Question the map or ask yourself, “What is this description/map missing?”

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