The World Is Not In Your Books And Maps. It Is Out There.


Superintendent’s Corner, June 2020

The world is not in your books and maps. It is out there. Gandalf the Grey, The Hobbit.

I have to confess to always being fascinated by maps. All kinds of maps hold my interest: ancient maps of what the world seemed to be, topographical maps showing how a trail winds through a valley, or ocean maps that mark safe passages. I look at maps with wonder. Maps tell stories, literally create a worldview, and help us find pizza in a strange town. On some historical maps, near the edge of the known world, you will find images of fantastic creatures like dragons and sea serpents. They represent the boundaries between the known world and the unknown, and what could be more threatening than wandering off the map into a dragon ahead?
The maps I carry in my mind help me to get to work every day, or find my way to a friend’s home. My mental maps reflect the world that I know. These same maps fail me at times, like when I take a wrong turn, or think I know the way, but find my version of reality does not match the world I am traveling. Our mental maps also help us navigate complexities like our personal identities, our relationships, and challenging moments in life. If our internal maps accurately reflect reality we can move through life with assurance. If our circumstances are beyond our known world, we feel the worry and anxiety of the uncharted dragons ahead.
We are clearly wandering off the map right now. Do you feel it too? There are so many uncertainties ahead. When will schools reopen? What will school look like in the fall? When can I go see a movie? There are much more complicated questions too. How will we resolve the historical influences of race in America? What can I do to bring civility to the conflicts I see? Journeys with no map are all around us.
Maybe the answer is not in books and maps, but out there. I feel finding my way is less about knowing how to reach a destination, but rather to just get going. Waiting for a clear path forward causes me to miss the unimaginable rewards (and challenges) found in casting off from the familiar shore and sailing into the undiscovered country of my future. Courage, resilience, grit…the heart of an adventurer is what I know I need. I hope you find these traits in you. I have to confess I have felt they are in short supply within me at times. But the journey of a lifetime starts with a single step. So, give your best thousand-yard stare, and say it with me, “Now bring me that horizon.”
Dr. Dana Anderson, Superintendent
Capital Region ESD 113