Freedom via mapmaking

Back in grade school, I loved to make maps of our part of town. I'd jump on my bicycle to check out an unfamiliar street and pedal home to update the map I was drawing. I thought it was so cool when I learned there was an age-old discipline called "cartography". I also thrilled when I was being shown maps by my grandfather or studying maps on my own. I took this passion up a level in college when I learned visual problem solving, diagramming and architectural drawing. I now view mapmaking as a road to freedom.

When we have something in mind, we can recall pieces without the sense of how they all tie together. When we listen to group conversations, panel discussions or meetings, our minds are full of varied viewpoints. When we've read a bunch of blogs in one sitting, our minds can be a jumble of ideas we want to consider more deeply. In all these instances, we're trapped by information overload, confusion or unresolved contradictions. We're looking for some freedom and meaning in this madness.

When we draw something, we invoke our right brain cognitive strategies. We're using our imagination to visualize something. Our integrative cognitive functions perceives patterns in data and connections between disparate elements. We say things like "I see your point", "I get the picture" or "I foresee these two things interrelating somehow". We connect the dots into a map where the connections mean as much as the nodes. We visualize how two ideas are aligned with each other or two people are close or far apart on an issue. We place abstractions in space to orient ourselves and draw new conclusions. We create charts and diagrams to capture the inter-relationships that are neither sequential or causal.

When we're in need of more mapping, we come across as very judgmental, intolerant and biased. We cannot see both sides of an issue or a use for opposing stances. We take positions against other approaches that end up shooting ourselves in the foot. We devote ourselves to left brain cognitive strategies as if we're locked into some kind of danger. We trust our logical reasoning that confines our understanding to lists and causal sequences. We unwittingly make things worse and trap ourselves in our own confining outlook.

The quality of our thinking improves when we've mapped out our understanding. We formulate better alternatives and make better decisions with multiple maps in mind. We see how conflicts go in circles and problems perpetuate themselves. We sense how to get into energizing virtuous cycles with more panoramic awareness. We relate to both sides of an issue from a third vantage point. We see the good in the bad and some harm in the good. We transcend dilemmas by embracing inarticulate paradoxes. We perceive freedom to explore where others see obstacles, limitations and enemies.

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