Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Living the Map

Living the Map is such a delicious phrase, isn't it? Just three words, but packed with so much possibility that they make me want to pack my bags, jump in the car and get moving. And that's before learning the story behind them.

Daniel Seddiqui, a recent graduate of my own alma mater, couldn't find a job after graduation, so he hopped in his car, and set out on an extraordinary journey: traveling to 50 states in 50 weeks, working at a different job in each place: meatpacker, farmer, rodeo announcer, wedding coordinator, Border Patrol agent, and, appropriately, a cartographer.

Daniel as a rodeo announcer.

He has a whole page on his site to explain why, but really, why not?

Truth be told, I am doing exactly what I want to be doing right now, and delighted about it. But I still have a list of dream careers, from ESL teacher to marine biologist (he did that, too) to Imagineer, and wouldn't it be fun someday, when I'm itching for something new, to try them each out for a week or even a month? And, even better, to take the road trip of all road trips, to each of the 50 states. It is my secret (not-so-green*) dream to travel the United States in an RV, and just take my ink and brushes and paints with me, to map as I go.

But Daniel's story also appeals to me for another reason. I've been thinking a lot lately about the world and all its greatness and all its problems and how two people from the same country can have such extremely different opinions about how things should be. Not to mention people from two different hemispheres.

And I've been thinking about how some people live in very small, constrained worlds, when they don't have to, often just because they don't realize there is more to the world beyond their limited experiences. Some people get very belligerent when they say this is how things should be, regarding this issue or that policy, or this war or that country's actions, or this religion or that philosophy. Some people don't seem to ever consider other perspectives. And I used to think this was because they were narrow-minded, but maybe it's because the just don't know there are other perspectives. They don't remember how to look.

As Daniel Seddiqui says, "I was unaware of what life was like outside my bubble."

Daniel as a marine biologist.

I'm not against opinions, not at all. I am fond of opinions, especially my own, and frankly, some of my own probably are narrow-minded, too. It's just that I think - my opinion is - that the more different types of experiences you have, the more tolerant you becomes of other viewpoints, other lifestyles, and other cultures. You don't always have to understand why people do things a different way. You just have to understand that there is a different way.

I think most of the readers of this blog have had experiences in learning that there is a different way. And maybe you have found, like I have, when it comes to solving problems, that once you understand that other perspectives exist, the more willing you'll tend to be to try fluid solutions instead of applying one-size-fits-all, rigid solutions. I often get overwhelmed by obstacles and problems, but as my horizons become ever broader, my mind is more and more likely to jump immediately to thinking of ways to solve the problems.

You just have to have one motivation, more than any other: curiosity. Even while I think there are no certain solutions to the world's problems, I think curiosity is a key element in all of them. (We can't try new solutions until we want to find out what they might be.) And I mean any curiosity (as long as it doesn't cause harm, of course), even if it's just finding out how people decorate their homes in another country. Because curiosity is like creativity: nurture the spark and you can build a fire.

So while there aren't many people who can take a journey like Daniel Seddiqui's and literally "live the map," the rest of us can travel vicariously, explore virtually, and nurture our own curiosity. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think curiosity is an innate human quality, and some people just don't remember how to keep the fire going. And I also think it's contagious. The more we indulge our own curiosity, the more it will spread, and the more our collective horizons will expand: curiosity about decorating becomes curiosity about daily life becomes curiosity about economics becomes curiosity about government.

Daniel as a cartographer.

We don't have to become experts, but I think eventually, after curiosity becomes knowledge, knowledge transforms into ideas. It simple, maybe too simple, but it's a start, I think. And then we can, together, really make the world a better place.

(At least, that's my opinion.)

* Maybe by the time I achieve that dream, there will be solar powered RVs.


Kandyce P said...

It's funny too, sometimes learning and understanding people's opposing perspectives will confirm your own opinions and give you respect for the other person's ideas at the same time. I so want to travel the US (and Canada) in a RV also. Maybe putting more people in one RV would make it less "ungreen". Or it could just make you hate your fellow RVers! :)

paintandink said...

A very good point, Kandyce.

As for the RV... I don't know I would function well with lots of people in such a small space (maybe that's the real secret why so many bands break up. The tour bus)!

Jennifer said...

Great thoughts. Tolerance and curiosity... I say bravo to both! :-)