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Mapping your World

Benjamin Stein


I can spend a lot of time pondering the ridiculous problems we, as humans, have created for ourselves through our genius. Obesity is a big one. A thousand years ago, who’d have thought that the second-leading cause of preventable death (in the US, at least) would be from eating too much food? We don’t have to spend time hunting and gathering anymore, so we can spend that time on sitting at our computers and eating.

On the flip side, all that time allows for some wonderful, if equally absurd, pursuits. For example, I was creating a fictional map to lay out the world in my latest novel the other day. I thought, this is nuts!

The Greeks are credited with creating the world’s first semi-accurate maps. There follows hundreds of years of intrepid explorers risking and giving their lives to create ever-more-accurate maps so those who followed could find their way across the world. Now, we have Google Maps (And Apple Maps, but those aren’t much more more accurate than those the Greeks produced back in the day). When I used to get lost in downtown Manhattan, I’d call my mother on a payphone, and she’d pull out a paper map to help me find the train. The Greeks would have found this incredible, but the tiny blue dot on my cell phone makes even that appear primitive.

The blue dot lets me find my way home more quickly so I can spend time drawing a make-believe map for my make-believe world. In a way, I think it’s ridiculous that I should spend time on this. On the other hand, it’s wonderful that I’m able to.