Mapping the Deep
French philosopher Gilles Deleuze once remarked that “Writing has nothing to do with meaning. It has to do with land surveying and cartography, including the mapping of countries yet to come.” I love that quote because it speaks to the effects of what is written today on tomorrow. I have mentioned in the past that these blog posts are a type of theological reflection with less emphasis on the theology and more on life itself. The final step of such a reflection involves moving forward, living tomorrow based on how one has mapped out the reflection.
Maps have always been of interest to me and if I lived somewhere with enough wall space I would have a map in every room. I marvel at the earliest cartographers, those explorers and artists that took the land they were standing on and turned it into a drawing with the highest importance and meaning.
I marvel at their ability to take a path well known and walked and turn it into a one dimensional drawing that others can interpret and then travel. Recently I threw in the recycle bin several paper maps, They were out of date and yes, I have Google maps on several devices so I did not need them but still, tossing them out was difficult.
I found the algorithms used by cosmologists and physicists fascinating in mapping outer space. Their confidence in knowing what to be positive about and what to estimate (read guess) boggles my mind. The most talented of cartographers, however, for me must be those that map out the ocean’s floor. They not only tell us where we are but can also tell us where our world has been and what it looked like eons ago at the beginning.
When you read this, no matter where you are or when you read this, an earthquake will have occurred in the past twenty-four hours. Hurricane Maria is still churning in the Atlantic while people in Houston recover from Hurricane Harvey and people in Florida and the Caribbean deal with the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The importance of these is understandable. For people in the affected areas, it is an upheaval and often a matter of life and death. For the rest of us, though, we tend to forget about them. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
Earthquakes are the world’s biggest makeover show, a reality program by every definition possible. Earthquakes have created and changed and created again much of the world we know today. And yet, the Teutonic plates and their movement which create the earthquakes was never fully mapped out until the mid-1900’s and yes, it was co-mapped by a woman.
Maria Tharp first earned degrees in music and English before getting graduate degrees in geology and mathematics. She was hired as a geologist and typical to members of her gender, given mostly desk work. Hired at the Lamont Geological Observatory at Columbia University, Maria could not go out on ships to obtain the necessary data used in attempts to locate downed aircraft. She worked with coworker Bruce Heezen using photographic data. For the next eighteen years, Heezen would go out on a ship while Tharp stayed in the office. Women were not allowed on the Observatory’s ship so Heezen collected the data and then Tharp would map it out. This was the first systematic attempt to map the ocean floor.
Tharp’s maps gave much credence to theories that North and South America were once connected to Europe and Africa. The mapping of Teutonic plates and the puzzle pieces of the continents that became one big continent based upon such oceanographic data has helped to explain the similarities of flora and fauna as well as bacteria found in differing parts of the western and eastern hemispheres.
In 2009 Maria Tharp’s Historical Map layer became a part of Ocean in Google Earth so you can check out her cartographic ability yourself. It is simply fascinating. Maria Tharp knew the importance of maps. They represent our living, our past, and our future destinations.
Detours take us off the beaten path. They create a sense of chaos and inner turmoil because we find ourselves suddenly without a map for our living. Maria Tharp knew how to navigate the detours caused by gender discrimination. She made the best of her situation and navigated the world, creating the maps that we still use today, maps that help us navigate not only the familiar paths but also the detours.
Life is about doing just that. Each of us will at some point find our life shaken to its core, an earthquake not of geological proportions but one of emotional or professional disorder and/or confusion. At some time the tides of life will flood us to the point we doubt our ability to continue. Life is a puzzle at times but we all have the power to solve and carry on. Life is a journey, full of detours. Where will you go today?