Monday, 12 November 2012

In praise of maps

What wonderful things maps are. No symbol of our loss of innocence is more beautiful.
Maps changed our world - that line of mountains, those headlands at each end of the bay, the horizons beneath which we carried on our lives - and the lands and people beyond it. The world was flat until maps appeared in all their essential flattiness.

Now Mankind could fly without leaving the ground, could burn his wings without crashing to earth. The world became of three dimensions. While always compromised by its curvature, maps are things of revelation. Even the most prescriptively and deliberately drawn leave as much to be imagined as read, while large scale topographical maps are a wealth of the unstated but discernible. And they are never up to date. Maps contain within them the tools with which we can question both what we see and what we understand.

For this reason maps should be treated as kindly as books, and we should resist the shallow, utilitarian prescription of satellite and other devices, for to travel is better than to arrive - whether you think you know where you're going or not.

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