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Nothing Really Has a Name

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I always liked those weird exploration games from the 1980s and 90s, like Zork and Myst, where you wake up in a strange environment, with no idea where you are or even who you are. You have to gather the context from the inside out, by wandering around, pushing buttons, peering behind wall paintings, and reading notes left by strangers who were here before you.

I like those games because that’s exactly what it’s to be a human being, if you think about it.

Your life began with a kind of singularity. A personal Big Bang. Without warning, you emerged from unconsciousness into a sea of light, color, smell, faces, feelings, and other completely unexpected phenomena, and there was nothing to do but attempt to navigate it. It was the ultimate “cold open” – no context, no explanation, just things happening.

At this early stage you know nothing about the world except what you feel in each moment. The feelings are new, intense, and definitely real. It’s a torrent that keeps coming, and at some point you realize it isn’t going to subside. This strange condition of being tossed in a sea of sensations, which you will one day call “existence,” or “life,” comes no reference point, just one implicit job: make sense of all this.

At first, you have very few tools for navigating this tumultuous sea. You can squirm, and you can call out. Aside from that, all you can do is observe. So you do. Some hints of basic order emerge. There are feedings. You feel good sometimes, and bad other times. There is a great light in the sky, which alternates between being there and not being there. Same with Mom.

You gain the power of self-locomotion, which allows you to make many more observations. Every time you turn your head you witness more unbelievable phenomena. Ants. Dust motes in the sun. Laughter. Dimpled vinyl flooring. The taste of your own fingernails. The unexpected condition of being alive remains mysterious, but some of the phenomena get more familiar as they repeat themselves.

The revelations tumble on. You’re a person, as it turns out, and there are other people. You come to understand that there are happenings aside from your current feelings. Things happened to you yesterday. Things will presumably happen tomorrow. Things happen to others. It takes years to figure out even that.

The complexity explodes when language enters the picture. Using words, the adults describe an unexpectedly vast context outside your daily stomping grounds. Reportedly, your whole world – your house, grandma’s house, the grocery store, and everything you’ve ever seen — sits in a tiny patch of an impossibly large ball covered in plants and water.

Another surprising report: the world around you did not begin when you did. You emerged into it, one random year out of many thousands of other numbered years. So much had already happened. You are assured your big sister was your size once, and that you too were smaller than you are now, and at one point you were not there at all. They prove it with photos.

You learn about the larger context of history. People used to ride horses. Before that they just walked. Your ancestors came from somewhere else. Your city was once a lonely bend in the river, known only to birds.

You learn the names for things. Tree. Brenda. Crying. Purple. There are many thousands of these sounds and symbols. People use them so much it’s easy to forget that the names don’t belong to the things at all — they’re just added as handles for convenience. In different places they use different sets of them.

You learn about what’s normal, what’s expected, and what won’t be tolerated. You get advice, mostly unsolicited, and usually delivered with complete confidence, on how you should go about the mysterious task of living. Most of it surrounds proving your value to others, earning currency you can trade for things, finding love, and possibly serving supernatural beings. You are strongly encouraged to make more people.

You gather these thousands of stories, concepts, and opinions, patching them together into a mental map of the universe, which roughly explains how the parts fit together, from the ants and the grass to table manners and bicycle physics. You add to the map as you go, rejecting any opinions that seem to be wrong (in your opinion), gradually building a context and a strategy for the mysterious condition that began all those years ago. After a decade or so of gathering notes and concepts into your map, you’re no longer at a complete loss about the whole thing, at least not the way you were when you first emerged from nothing.

Because you depend so much on the map, it’s easy to forget that it’s just a map, which you assembled yourself with mostly second-hand material. No matter how good your map is, it’s not the territory.  Knowing some psychology doesn’t unravel the mysterious experience of having a thought. Understanding wavelengths of light doesn’t tell you why blue is so blue and red is so red. Despite your reliance on the map, you’re only ever in the territory, and the territory isn’t made of concepts. The territory is the wilderness itself. You can give its parts names and numbers but it never becomes them.

I have no idea if any of this makes much sense to anyone else. I’m trying to make a distinction that I think is important our well-being. When you regard the map as life itself, life can feel dull, limited, and stressful, because you think you can see where all the roads go and where the edges are. Living becomes a boring game of pattern recognition, where you’re mostly guessing what familiar thing will happen today or this week, and performing the necessary procedures. There’s little sense that life is the astounding, ongoing, wordless revelation that it is to any newcomer — or any sufficiently astute observer.

No matter how many concepts you append to the map, the experience of being alive remains fundamentally mysterious, just as it was when you were born into the great unexplained sea. You’re still just a being who woke up in Zork one day, only that by now you’ve had years to prod and explore and talk about it. Don’t let all those concepts fool you – the fact that life is happening at all was never truly explained.  

You can learn to see that mysteriousness in the world again, on purpose. You can practice looking at what’s in front of you as an infant might see it. It’s all just textures and feelings, that have no real names and carry no explanation. Looking at the world like that comes with a certain kind of relief to the compulsive mapper, because what’s right in front of you is never as busy as the map.

It’s hard for a grownup to overcome the habit of deferring to the map over the territory. That’s why I’m always advocating weird exercises like pretending time just began, or imagining you’re not in this room, or that you’re visiting from another planet.

However you do it, it comes down to just looking — seeing what’s there, and nothing else, as you once did. Get lost in the fine hairs of a garden carrot, the smooth weave of the seatbelt, and the faint, blurry shapes your eyelashes make in front of everything. That’s the real world. Nothing in it has a name.


Photo by Nick Seagrave

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Vilx- August 12, 2021 at 4:46 am

I get what you’re saying, in this article and in others, and I’m convinced that it works and all, but…

The question that I’m personally stuck on lately is – why? What’s the point? Why do these things? Sure, they might make you feel better, but… does it matter? What’s the goal here, what am I trying to achieve here? What should I try to achieve?

As in – I see all these methods, all these tools that help you with this task or that, but… what am I supposed to do? I look at the map, I look at the territory, but there’s nothing. No direction. No pointers. No narrow path to follow. No quest marker, no journal entry.

And I’ve looked around for over 35 years now. Even in Myst and Zork the story would have emerged by this point.

And, yes, I know – “I’m free to choose my own goals and path”. But… that doesn’t really say anything. How do I know that I’ve chosen the Right Path? How can I be sure that after 30 more years I won’t look back and go “Shit, this was the wrong way”?

Do you have any insights here?

David Cain August 12, 2021 at 8:54 am

Good question, and that’s kind of what I’m saying here. No matter how many explanations you gather, it will never be spelled out for you what you’re supposed to do. (I suppose Myst and Zork differ in that regard). It’s always fundamentally mysterious, and that’s why it’s so liberating to turn towards the territory, instead of the map and its false promises. The idea that there’s a “right path” is just more theory, more notes on the map.

There is meaning in the territory. Connecting with other people and appreciating the incredible territory in front of me is what feels meaningful to me. Meditation and other practices help me do that, and time I spend with that sense of appreciation is impossible to regret. It’s so clearly time well spent. I try to gravitate towards those things, but ultimately the satisfying thing about it is that it is happening at all. That you get to wander around and wonder what the deal is.

Trisha Scott August 12, 2021 at 12:28 pm

I once went through a rather long and worrisome time of wondering WHY. I looked everywhere! It was something I thought about constantly and it drove me NUTS. Then one evening while walking to an appointment I looked up and saw a fabulous sunset and understood THAT’S WHY! It was profound.

I doubt that noticing a sunset works for many but it answered my question in a deeply satisfying way. So now my answer to “why” is, Haven’t a clue – Ain’t life GRAND!

David Cain August 12, 2021 at 2:53 pm

Sounds like you received your own personal flower sermon from the sky ;)

Bene August 12, 2021 at 9:01 am

Hey Vilx, maybe you’re getting stuck on the idea that life is supposed to be a journey? Alan Watts says it is more akin to a dance, ie you don’t need to get anywhere in particular. This video is a nice little summary of what he talks about https://youtu.be/rBpaUICxEhk

Charlotte K August 12, 2021 at 10:00 am

Imagine yourself for a moment 30 years from now. And you might be saying then, “There is no wrong way” — I’m not saying you can be an ax murderer (definitely a wrong way) and I agree with your comment further down about not abandoning thinking. AGREE very much! But maybe there is no story other than getting out of bed, doing something you like pretty well, loving the people you’re surrounded with, not encumbering the planet with too much garbage, enjoying what you can, reflecting on what you can’t control, trying to make your immediate and local situation good for yourself and others. In 40-60 years when you are not here anymore, will you have run or swum or sung or cooked or written in your journal or taken your kids to the playground–or– whatever? Will you have had moments that filled you with joy or love and didn’t cost much of anything or hurt anyone else?

I’m not quite 30 years older than you, if I read your comment correctly. I have had so many of the questions you do now. I haven’t given up, I still struggle every day with trying to be better in better (not dumber) ways, but you have to live in time and that is made up of moments. I’ve torn myself apart for years with questions like the ones you’re asking. I’m not sorry that is what I went through. I’m not there anymore, either.

Also, and I don’t know if you’re implying this…can’t quite tell. There is no inherent meaning in life. We are the result of gametes meeting. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t ask to come here. Some part of it is always going to be a big mystery. Growing older, I think you get to both acceptance and enthusiasm about what you don’t know, never will, or still have to learn. I’m really looking forward to seeing how my mind and heart have changed after another 20 years (hope I make it).

Vilx- August 12, 2021 at 11:50 am

I guess what I want is more of a criteria… an algorithm, a set of guiding principles or whatever. Something that helps me make choices. At any moment in my life there are so many choices, from the big to the small. And I only have so much time and energy to spend. In economics this is called “the cost of opportunity”. In order to do one thing, you have to give up something else.

So how do I make the right choice? What is the criteria? I need to know, because eventually there will be other people who will tell me that my choice is wrong, and I’ll have to defend myself and make an argument that holds. Or I might need to convince other people to join me, so I will need to show them that This Is The Way. Or I might need to tell someone that what they are doing is wrong and they should stop.

And I don’t want to just shove these people aside and ignore them, because often those are the people closest to us who we have to convince. People who we care about and want to be happy.

Life would be much simpler if it was just about me. In that case, sure, do whatever I feel like. But it’s not. There are other people I need to take into account and any decision can swiftly lead to disaster if I’m not careful enough…

Charlotte K August 12, 2021 at 5:39 pm

I don’t know you, or know what you would consider a disaster resulting from a decision you have been called upon to make. Many disasters have nothing to do with our decision making or principles. Stuff happens not within our control. Most things are not within our control. I’m not a philosopher or a psychologist or a theologian, I’m just a regular person trying to live my life. Disaster is a strong word, and I hope it’s stronger than anything you will really face in life. But I don’t know. Maybe you already have a lot of regrets and are trying to rectify that.

Principles are a helpful framework, but they don’t prevent disappointment, mistakes, shame, disaster. You can put in grounded electrical work in your house and feel pretty confident that’s a good decision and not something you’ll regret. But the kind of decisions I think you’re talking about — especially when they concern other people– don’t have assured outcomes. The application of economic models might work, in some cases (“should we move and I’ll take care of the kids while you start a new career”), but I want to invite you to consider that maybe there is no “right or wrong” decision in many matters of human life. I mean it’s a forked path and one version of you goes down one way and the other goes the other way. We both know you can only go one way in this waking life, but you can walk yourself and those involved on those paths in your shared imagination. You can agree to be kindly people who don’t ascribe blame and retribution if things turn out differently from how you hoped during the decision making process. If you are dealing with people who won’t make good faith efforts, it becomes harder, and maybe your choice then is not to be engaged with those people any more, even if that makes you sad or angry in the moment. And don’t be one of those people when you can help it. Agree to imagine yourselves as part of this shared exercise asking, it’s 25 years from now, where did this decision take us? In that imaginary walk-through you may have come up with possibilities neither of you considered on your own.

If there are people you admire that you know personally, ask them how they live their lives. Ask them if they have a set of personal “Ten Commandments” (I’m not religious, so I’m using that phrase as shorthand). Listen to them and write them down. Try following them for a while and see if they help you live your life. What are the consequences? How do they make you feel? How do they appear to make the people in your life feel? If they don’t work, put them aside and try something else. Follow your nose when it comes to taking assistance from people you don’t know (like me!). Read some books about how to live a “good life” and test those principles. Again, gauge results and reaction. Set up some routines that make decisions about the stupid stuff (like putting your bills on autopay, again, shorthand) and then you have more freedom to work through why you will or won’t do something where you perceive the potential for more difficult consequences. Forgive yourself and others when things don’t go well, and work together to understand why and how to do it differently. And if you are genuinely defeated and miserable, allow yourself to move on. Allow others to move on too.

Some people benefit from simplification. Others seem to thrive on highly engaged and complicated lives. Get to know yourself, what you will and won’t tolerate. Where are your various lines in the sand? If you don’t know, you haven’t met them yet. You will, and it will be hard. Then the wind will blow the line away and you’ll be in a new phase. You’ll know when you get there. And then another line appears. Ask the people you love the same thing–what are your lines in the sand, beyond which you won’t go? What have you done about them, when you met them, and how did that work out for you? Be open to what they share and remember it may be for you, but it may not be.

I truly wish you well in finding your way. Life is difficult and beautiful.

Sherel Webb August 20, 2021 at 12:23 pm

I absolutely loved this line in your comment, Charlotte. “…you have to live in time and that is made up of moments.” It jumped out at me. Simple but profound and important.

David October 8, 2021 at 1:40 pm

So, the way I see it is that there is no reason. The universe just “is”and you happened to be born into it. If there is no reason the you are the one who creates meaning. You can be a happy person, a sad one, you can do good for yourself and others or choose not to. The freedom to create your own adventure is truly empowering and can be frightening as well. What I have found works best for me it to observe the world and learn as much about it as I can, continually. It makes sense to me that whatever you want to do that causes as little harm to others is okay but just don’t try to find meaning where there isn’t any. This is the key to my happiness. Just moving through life learning and experiencing while doing as little harm and as much good as possible. Oh yeah, remember to smile

Charlotte K August 12, 2021 at 5:24 am

I think dislocation can wake us up to things about ourselves we don’t recognize in the day-to-day. We can find out what we’re good at or how we can meet challenges. Our resourcefulness can come out. Travel to a place where you don’t speak the language is always a good place to start. You think you’re smart (and you probably are) but when you can’t communicate with anyone, and can’t even read the alphabet, you suddenly have to rely on all kinds of other cues to get by. What are those? You have to work to find out. A lot of people find people who speak their language but I think that’s cheating! Go it alone and see what you do and don’t know, what you can learn by observing.

David Cain August 12, 2021 at 8:56 am

That’s a really great point — get yourself to a situation that is mostly unmapped for you. Travel has a way of expanding time, because you can’t rely on rote patterns to navigate the world anymore. You need to become conscious of the territory again.

Charlotte K August 12, 2021 at 9:46 am

Sitting here thinking, another way is thru art or literature that is unfamiliar. Look at something and suspend judgement or reaction (initially, anyway). Myself, I’ve mainly experienced it in travel, but that can be off limits (as it is now).

David Cain August 12, 2021 at 10:37 am

I hadn’t quite thought of it like that but that is a big part of what art does for me. It takes you somewhere your mind wouldn’t go otherwise. Somewhere off the map.

Shohna August 12, 2021 at 5:43 am

Not to be presumptive, but I can only make an educated guess that you’ve been reading or watching Jordan Peterson, as this is one of his big topics – our mental map of the way life is vs real life happening to us, and how as life happens to us, we have to update our map of the world, or suffer the consequences of living out a reality that we can’t comprehend because we haven’t adjusted our thinking as our circumstances or experiences have changed. He talks about it a lot.

Either that or presumably the “map” metaphor is a model taught throughout psychology to describe our comprehension of reality and I’m just late to the party.

Either way, I love your posts and Jordan Peterson’s insights, so it’s cool to see them dovetail. Both of you have really helped me to organize the way I approach life, and it’s fun to think there is some overlap, or even simply that great minds, at least occasionally, think alike. Thanks for this post.

David Cain August 12, 2021 at 9:00 am

I’m familiar with Jordan Peterson but I haven’t heard him talk about this. I know he has a book called “Maps of Meaning” but I haven’t read it. Is this what it’s about? In any case I will look for more reflections on this topic.

For me this idea comes more from my mindfulness practice. You can sit and study any feeling or sensation, and your mind has names and explanations for it, but thought is just more sensation, which you can in turn examine. At the root, nothing has a name, it is always just a sea of sensations that never explains itself.

Rocky August 12, 2021 at 6:25 am

I think the point is, we’re all trying to figure this life out at all times. It helps to view it from a different perspective. Strip away all the names….then what do you see? Perhaps that there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. I refer quite a bit to my gut. I like the Wayne Dyer quote “If prayer is you talking to God, then intuition is God talking to you.”

David Cain August 12, 2021 at 10:47 am

A big part of human spiritual tradition seems to concern this same theme. The word God has been used in all sorts of ways, but it has often referred to the unfathomable or the numinous. When you see things as you really are, you have to let go into a kind of perplexity or mystery.

Vilx- August 12, 2021 at 6:34 am

Be careful with that. If intuition is God’s transmission, then there’s heckuva lot of static coming through. I’ve seen plenty of people do plenty of shitty things (myself included), just because they relied on their intuition.

Intuition is fine, listen to it, it can point out things that you missed – but don’t take it at face value and always check with your cool, rational mind. Because quite often your intuition is just telling you what you want to hear, and not what is real.

Caitríona O’Leary August 12, 2021 at 6:50 am

Beautiful! Thank you so much!

Rob August 12, 2021 at 7:58 am

This is fantastic. Very “Plato’s cave wall” type stuff!

Reminds me of another concept I’ve encountered that says that we are all only ever living in the past.

Due to the time it takes senses to come slogging through our nervous system and then integrated into our experience, we can never ever EVER really know what’s going on at this exact moment.

Anyway, thanks. Also, one pedantic comment that has NO BEARING WHATSOEVER on the message: Myst wasn’t a text adventure ;)

Vilx- August 12, 2021 at 8:28 am

Ahh, I wanted to say that too, but in the end decided it wasn’t worth it. :D Myst was (for the day) a visual spectacle. As it has been ever since. Zork was… complicated. There was a great number of text-only games (9, according to Wikipedia), 2 interactive comic books and then 4 fully graphical games. In fact, Return to Zork was my first ever adventure/point-and-click game! :) Ahh, the nostalgia. :)

David Cain August 12, 2021 at 10:53 am

Right — the map is the cave wall. The world is the cave and the fire and the people and everything else.

Whether we can know what’s going on in the moment is debatable — who’s to say that what’s “really” going on is the external object that your eyes see, rather than the sensation of seeing, which arrives whenever it arrives and is no more or less than what appears to us. The most fundamental reality we have access to is sensation itself — our inferences about what we’re seeing/hearing are secondary to that, so we might think of reality as the experiences themselves, even if they are hallucinations or refractions of some external thing we can only hypothesize about. Does that make sense?

You’re totally right that Myst wasn’t text-based. At first I just had Zork, but added Myst at the last moment because a lot of people wouldn’t know what that was.

Rob August 12, 2021 at 11:38 am

As an owner of the “Lost Treasures of Infocom” set, I am 100% right there with you on those experiences, though. So much of it was built in your imagination, I would wager that my experience of Zork was actually fairly different from yours.

Should we bring in the Matrix as well?

I’m ALSO reminded of one of those reposted screenshots from instagram quotes (or wherever, really) on reddit that says “The brain is just 8 lbs of meat that sits in complete darkness and plays a video game of what it thinks is the most realistic thing ever.”

Followed by something about tapioca, calculus and cat ghosts.

There is SO VERY MUCH OUT THERE yet to be experienced!

(Can I post links? This is it: https://www.reddit.com/r/BrandNewSentence/comments/bvhoma/if_a_bowl_of_tapioca_pudding_managed_to/ )

Sally King August 12, 2021 at 9:07 am


Susan Isabel Dworkin August 12, 2021 at 9:31 am

OH MY, the best one you’ve ever written!!!!!!!!!

Alexa Fleckenstein August 12, 2021 at 9:35 am

David, another beautiful piece of thinking …

Gregg Romaine August 12, 2021 at 10:34 am

What a wonderful piece of writing!! I love how well you’ve encapsulated this great mystery. Pleasure to read, thank you!!

Francis August 12, 2021 at 11:40 am

Wow, David. This was the best, maybe ever, and I’ve been reading you since the beginning. Thanks for this!

Karen August 12, 2021 at 11:51 am

I agree with Susan – one of the best blogs you’ve ever written.

Eckhart Tolle tells us in his course to see things without labels – suspending our labeling of them allows us to be and remain in full presence. I suppose that is simply because by labeling we are using the ‘ol noggin. Do you agree? I do think that I receive more from my moments of presence when I am just with the world around me, and not defining it..

Derrick August 12, 2021 at 8:46 pm

Eckhart!! Yes. This moment. There for the taking. Great topic!!

Patrick Meninga August 12, 2021 at 2:34 pm

Geez….you are an incredible thinker, and writer.

David Cain August 12, 2021 at 2:55 pm

Those of you who liked this post will like the Ken Babstock poem I linked above:

Carrying Someone Else’s Infant Past a Cow in a Field Near Marmoara, Ont.

Alexander Kidder August 12, 2021 at 3:36 pm

Hey David – great post. My wife and I both read this sitting at our desks this morning and went “hey, did you read Raptitude today? Really good…”

I saw someone mention Jordan Peterson above, but I saw the section of Map and Territory as reflecting deeply on the Rationalist sphere. Less Wrong/Scott Alexander/Overcoming Bias. The Map is Not the Territory is a fundamental concept in also understanding how our thinking fails to produce true pictures of reality. Aspiring rationalists are taught constantly to be aware of how the two do not match and where thinking that they do can lead to all kinds of mistakes in thinking.

Anyway – great to see this in your writing. I loved Zork and the other text adventures (Hitchhikers Guide was a particularly good one for me). I’m old enough to have played them when they came out and loved that feeling of – “Go north, look around” and having a world begin to come into focus.

Cheers and keep the posts coming!

David Cain August 13, 2021 at 11:02 am

Thanks Alexander. I’m a newish fan of Scott Alexander and really appreciate his mind.

I don’t think I got very far in Zork as a kid, so I’m going to give it another go — there’s a website with lots of those old text adventures playable online. Here’s Zork: http://textadventures.co.uk/games/play/5zyoqrsugeopel3ffhz_vq

LAURA PETERSON August 12, 2021 at 6:03 pm

Wow, I really like the way you explained life. Being around little kids makes you see everything new again. You made me see everything new again too. Life is an amazing miracle and we forget to see and appreciate all the wonder. Thanks for the reminder.

Joan August 29, 2021 at 4:39 am

same with me, thank you so much for that piece David!
Never thought about that “bang” moment of birth and starting to navigate like that!
Just always thought about coming into life like starting deep in the ocean, dark and without anything around and then slowing emerging, a process while diving below the surface but with more light and feelings and birth being the moment when your head pops up to the surface, breathing, arms catching you up our of the ocean…

Kim August 12, 2021 at 7:33 pm

David, I love this. I found myself saying “yes!” several times as I read it. In a few days I’ll be heading off for a short writing retreat, where I plan to stay in my cabin in the woods and think about life. I’m sure I’ll re-read this article while I’m there. Thank you for putting this out into the world right now.

Alexander Schwarz August 13, 2021 at 12:27 am

Really beautiful!

Would love to have this and related topics as an (audio) book.

Also: Kudos for having such a great community here commenting on your articles.

Melanie August 13, 2021 at 6:59 am

For a while now, I have been considering why naming things is so important to me. I don’t even like labels and, for the most part, prefer generics over name brands. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t fully appreciate a new bird at my feeder until I could identify it. Knowing the names of wildflowers and weeds was almost as important as whether or not I appreciated their appearances. These days I am trying to set aside the identification and just focus on the appreciation. After all, I am not a scientist. Now when my 3 year old grandson points at a bird in delight, I don’t bother trying to teach him “cardinal” because “red” is meaningful enough for him since it’s his favorite color. Each moment of his life- and of mine- doesn’t have to be a teachable one to be worthwhile.
This might not be exactly what you meant, but I enjoy reading you posts very much.

David Cain August 13, 2021 at 11:43 am

That is totally what I meant. A lot of times our thinking and analyzing gets in the way of seeing the world for what it is. One example is the habit of trying to photograph a bird instead of looking at it, so that we can “have” it, and meanwhile it flies away and the picture isn’t the same at all.

Anna August 13, 2021 at 9:44 am

Hi David,
i havent read your article because i wasnt in the mood but i skipped through and read the comments and it moved me to tears how lovely all the people are that read and comment on your articles. So intelligent and kind… no trolls in site. I felt like i was sitting in a group with all my best friends in the world having a really deep chat.
Just what i needed today because im turning into a bored housewife that just is full of boring stuff to do and routines and was missing deep thought and conversation and well… spirituality, god, art, new ideas, spontainaity, … I will go back and read your article… but i can already say to you… thank you its brilliantly thought provoking as usual….

David Cain August 13, 2021 at 11:44 am

There is a wonderful comment section here. May I never take it for granted :)

Cara Vogl August 14, 2021 at 6:11 am

Beautiful and simple and rich. I too find that travel is the most effective way for me to access my ‘Beginner’s Mind’ state (I’m working on reaching that state when I’m home on familiar territory, but it’s a bigger challenge).

Your post made me think of a Pico Iyer quote I love: “And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.”

Thank you.

Victoria Yazlle August 14, 2021 at 7:17 am

excellent post! You made me think, or rather, not think. Thanks a lot!
Here from Argentina waiting attentively for you to launch your book How to do things

PAUL J LONGO August 14, 2021 at 12:42 pm

Thank you, David. You have a way with words, maybe because you have a way with experience, and you know that it’s but one way among several ways. I won’t say that there is an infinite number of ways of experiencing the mystery, as tempting as it might be, because in my view that would place an anthropological limit on the existence and utility of wisdom as a sense-making tool. At any rate, I’m grateful for your way with words and your way with experience. Paul

RJA August 17, 2021 at 3:36 am

Excellent and thought provoking article. Two reflections:

“Looking at the world like that comes with a certain kind of relief to the compulsive mapper, because what’s right in front of you is never as busy as the map.”

Isn’t the reverse often true? Real life is filled with chaotic and fleeting impressions that we filter out every moment due to our “maps”?

Also, I wonder how this perspective relates to Kant and his idea of the human mind as having certain “maps” built into us which organizes the world as we perceive it already from when we’re born, i.e. maps that are not acquired by society or culture. Maybe a higher level of mystery resides in “the thing itself”, the world as it is outside of our perception of it which we can never reach.

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