What 3-letter word gives you the power of a mighty god or goddess?
Map. The word is deceptively simple. Map. Three letters. One syllable. Map.
And yet…maps are marvelous. They let us visualize our worlds in multiple dimensions. They let us plan and form strategies. They even give us a way to predict the future.
Today, we have step-by-step maps in our mobile phones. And while this is an extraordinary technological leap, let’s look at an even bigger technological leap: the creation of early maps.
The word “map” comes from the Latin word mappa. It means napkin.
Perhaps early cartographers — map makers — had the idea to draw maps on napkins. You may have done this yourself. A map can be a quick way to sketch how to get from point A to point B.
And yet, the first sophisticated maps were of the skies. Ancient people looked up at the stars and mapped what they saw. They drew where they believed their gods and goddesses lived.
Early cartographers noted the changes in the sky night after night. These ancient map makers correlated what they mapped with the passage of time and seasonal phenomenon.
Along the way, someone had the brilliant idea to map what was on earth. An unknown person had the idea to draw the earth from the perspective of the gods and goddesses.
That was a major breakthrough. Imagine drawing earth from a perspective no one had ever seen. Imagine the audacity of daring to draw what they believed only gods and goddesses could know. That’s the challenge early map makers faced.
To create those maps, early cartographers needed massive amounts of information. These map makers literally went to great heights and lengths and depths to make observations. They also gathered data from merchants and mariners.
And think of the effect maps had on society! Early maps of the earth gave people more control over their environments. Maps did more than show people how to get from one place to another. They allowed a more sophisticated sense of time and space to evolve.
Maps gave humanity the ability to visualize space and plan their time. This meant people could create clearer strategies about where they were, where they were going, how long it would take to get there, and what they were likely to find.
In a way, maps gave humans a way to predict the future. The people who had access to the best maps were in a position to conquer and succeed. People with poor maps or no maps were destined to flounder or fail.
By studying maps, you can visualize your world in multiple dimensions: depth, height, length, width, and even time. And while it’s fine to get step-by-step instructions from your phone once in a while: don’t forget to look for the bigger mental picture a map can provide.
Look at the world, from above, as if you were a mighty god or goddess. That’s the powerful, mind-building, multi-dimensional perspective a map can give you.
Let maps inspire your curiosity and imagination. Ask questions like: where am I? Where do I want to go? How long? How far? How high? What’s there?
Get to know more about your universe by playing with maps. Playing with maps lets you gain a better sense of how to navigate physical space in multiple dimensions.