If we’re going to talk about maps, let us really talk about maps. Go to some gas station, or a convenient glove box, retrieve the newest, most accurate map of the state or city where you live that can be purchased. Open that map and point to where you are represented on that map. I may be bold to say that you are not represented. You may say that in the territory represented you are, but you are not represented on this map. Perhaps, instead, you can point to something on that map that is different because you have existed. Point not to the things represented to which you have a relationship or familiarity, but to you yourself. Point not to that thing which, if viewed in person by the eye, is different, but to the representation on the map itself that is represented in a way that shows your existence. Perhaps, by some chance, other than philosophically going beyond the map you have and the representations there, you can point to such a thing. Can you say, honestly, that the change you’ve identified would not have occurred without you; is not something that was happening to which you were merely aligned and helped to manifest, but would have manifested as it is shown and represented on the map without you? The odd ephemeral and the specific are not represented here. The wind chime and the small repair are not there. The roadside shrine and the well-worn footpath are not there. So, really, where on the map in front of you are you?

And, even if one is able to find their existence represented, could someone else discern that existence on that map were they not to have already known the person represented in some fashion?

Is it enough to have existed without being represented? On the other hand, do I really want to be just another dead white guy with my name on a map the providence of which people might ponder over many years from now? I’ve articulated in the past the thought that a sustainable Pacific Northwest would look like itself before the arrival of the European invasions, so have I abandoned this belief in exchange for a historical plaque with my decidedly European name, a record of my exercise of privilege? Should I not, in fact, yearn to only be found through the vernacular and imaginal?

Posted by John Bell on May 11, 2006
Tags: Sigils of Imagination

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