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The Maker of Maps - a metaphorical tale

Way back, back further even than before the time of your future dreams, there was a Map Maker who was regarded as the finest maker of maps in the city. His maps were known ... the land, and pe

Way back, back further even than before the time of your future dreams, there was a Map Maker who was regarded as the finest maker of maps in the city. His maps were known throughout the land, and people would travel for many days to have a map prepared by the Map Maker.

One day, a foreign dignitary visited the Map Maker's shop, and at the dignitary's request the Map Maker prepared him the most exquisite of maps made of the finest parchment, with the rarest inks. The Map Maker worked late into the night, ignoring mealtimes and calls for bed. In the morning, the dignitary called to pick up the map as arranged and he was delighted.

Reverently he unrolled the map out on the Map Maker's desk. Beneath their eyes desert lands unfurled in gold, while green-brown forests and white peaked mountains lay before them. Delicate lines marked out contours, latitudes and longitudes, and exquisite letters showed the locations of towns, villages and cities.

"Map Maker" said the dignitary, pointing to a deep blue river on the map, "tell me of this area here".

"Sire" replied the Map Maker "I know not of these areas I draw. My maps are drawn from the words and the maps of others who have gone before me." And he took the dignitary to a room at the back of the shop that contained books from travellers, hand drawn maps, sketches, and all manner of paper and record.

The dignitary hid his disappointment well, but soon after he left, the Map Maker began to hear disturbing stories. That people were saying that they could not trust his work. Saying, that if he simply put together his maps from other peoples work then however fine they were, how could anyone guarantee their accuracy? How could anyone who used them know that they would simply not get lost?

Over the weeks, he noticed a slowing down of business, until his customers had almost stopped coming in their entirety. Now, this sorely vexed the Map Maker, for not only was this how he made his living, but he was a deeply proud man, proud of both his art and his reputation. And it pained him to the core of his being that his maps might not actually be as good as he had always believed them to be. So he resolved to discard his work and to discard his books and his drawings, and venture out into the world himself, and learn his art again anew.

So, he sold his shop, his fine pens and his parchments. He sold his rare ink and his gold leaf, his books, papers and records. With the proceeds from the sale, he paid of his servants and was about to put the remaining money in the single bag he had packed for his journeys when he had a thought. This thought came unbidden, and he knew not from where, but it seemed important to him somehow.

"If I am to start out anew then I must go out into the world as much as a new born child as I am able. Only then will I be able to immerse myself deep in my art".

And so he gave the remainder of his money to a beggar outside the shop, and he left his shop and he left his city. As he walked passed the city gates with only his clothes and his bag he turned back to look, and it seemed to him as if he was leaving a strange place.

Many days he wandered and there was much fear in his heart, for he had no maps to guide him now. But many days there was much joy too, as he took to sketching with the simple pencils and paper he had brought with him for the task of relearning his art. And sometimes he measured, and drew maps, and sometimes he just sat, deep in a silence. And it would seem to him afterward, that it was at these times that he was most deeply immersed in his art, and that it was in this inner sense of silence that he learned the most.

As he learned to survive, to trade his physical labour or his skills as an artist for food, the days when he felt fear grew less, and the days when he felt joy, grew more. He came to know the pleasure of rain on his skin, the soft sound of birdsong as the sun rose in the mornings. He came to learn the ache of muscles worked hard during a long day. He came to appreciate the bright crispness of a winter's day, the newborn colours of spring, the warm joy of summer and the red-gold quiescence of autumn. He discovered the joys of a simple welcome and of hospitality, of a giving and receiving, motivated only by a common humanity.

As he wandered, his muscle grew hard, and his body lean and tanned. His face became lined and radiated a peace and a gentle silence that filled the people he met with quiet awe and reverence. Yet none of this he noticed.

When he came to a new town, he would tell the people there of his travels, and he would illuminate his stories with pictures and maps of his own making, drawn both on paper, and in the air with his arms as he told his tales. And he started to notice a strange thing; that when he came into a new place, people seemed to know him, and to have been waiting eagerly for his arrival. Audiences would gather to hear of his travels, and he would leave behind maps and pictures for the people, never taking them on with himself in his journey but always starting out anew with fresh pencils and plain paper.

As he continued to wander, he came to realise that the maps he carried in his memory would guide him better than the maps he drew on paper, because they could change, and in winter, would have snow and ice, and in summer, fields and desert. So he started to tell his audience that they did not need his maps, that the maps that they carried in their heads were much more useful, because they would change, but only the children seemed to understand, and so he would still leave maps and pictures for the townsfolk wherever he wandered.

Time went on, and although he had not forgotten why he had left the city, his purpose became less and less important to him.

Over time, he noticed that people seemed to treat him differently. The children would rush toward him still and clutch at his clothes, begging to hear his stories, and the adults would welcome him into their homes, offer him work and give him food, but there was a change. There was an air of hushed reverence and deference in their treatment of him and gradually this came to trouble him. One day he stopped at a village that he knew well, and the people of the village welcomed him with their usual love and respect, but he asked of them "Why this change? For many years now I have travelled, and I've come through your village, and you have always welcomed like a brother, but this, this is different. Why do you now treat me like a...?" and he paused, lost for the word.

"Magus, you do not know?" asked one villager. The answer troubled him further, and he shook his head, so the villager lead him to the village meeting hall. There, inside, and surrounded by people, lay one of his maps, left behind from a previous visit. The villagers parted to let him through, and he approached the map, only to notice the most curious thing. When he was here last, he had drawn a map of the land in winter, with snowcaps and frozen lakes. This, this was a map of the land in summer, all green fields and flowing rivers. He peered closer, and was surprised to see movement. If he looked closely enough, he could see the meeting hall. And if he looked closer still, he could swear that he could almost see into the hall itself, and see himself standing surrounded by the awed villagers. He laughed out loud.

"Do you see, Magus?" the villager asked.

"I see nothing" said the Maker of Maps, kindly, "I see only what I have told you all along, but only the children understood." and with that, he picked up the map, and tore it into little pieces. He turned to the villager, placed his hand upon the villager's head and asked "And who has the best map, now?"

Source: Free Articles from ArticlesFactory.com

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