Mapping In Life: Going Beyond Geo Lessons

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of maps?

Google Maps? Your old social science textbook? The globe model sitting at a corner in your house? Well, you wouldn’t be the only one thinking of similar things. Ever since our childhoods, we’ve been taught to look at maps through a particular lens, a geographic lens, and nothing beyond that.

But in truth, maps are relevant not just from a geographical standpoint, but in many more settings and contexts. While the concept of mapping appears to be simple at the outset, it is deceptively so, and entails something much bigger than what it may seem to look like. You’re probably wondering as you read this, come on now, we’re talking about “maps” here, what’s so great about such a simple thing? Read on, and you’ll understand. I promise!

Photo by Aksonsat Uanthoeng on

You see, unlike the picture above, the meaning of “mapping” isn’t just limited to pointing out certain locations of interest on a piece of paper (or a smartphone screen!). Mapping can mean so much more. In fact, and very interestingly, history suggests this.

According to an article from the Smithsonian Magazine, “One of the oldest surviving maps is, ironically, about the size and shape of an early iPhone: the Babylonian Map of the World. A clay tablet created around 700 to 500 B.C. in Mesopotamia1, it depicts a circular Babylon2 at the center, bisected by the Euphrates3 River and surrounded by the ocean. It doesn’t have much detail—a few regions are named, including Assyria4but it wasn’t really for navigation. It was more primordial: to help the map-holder grasp the idea of the whole world, with himself at the center.”

Well, this very fact is the essence of the hidden wisdom one may find from mapping. Without knowing it, each of us finds ourselves on a map just about everyday. I’m not just referring to Google Maps here 🙂

Young school-going kids may find themselves running around in a map involving friends, parents, teachers, exam scores and knowledge. Budding engineers may be finding solutions to navigate across a map involving higher education, the career ladder, employment, finance and technical skills. Upcoming artists may be weaving their ways through a map involving performance elements, inspirations, role-models, practice and professional routines. The list goes on and on.

We live in a dynamic world with change being the only constant factor. Every single day brings us new challenges and opportunities for failures, learning from these failures, and success. At times, these may take the form of seemingly uphill tasks, and more so, individualized tasks leading us to believe that these struggles are personal. While this may make sense to a certain extent, the truth is far from this. Each one of us is living our own life and treading along a unique path. But what most of us don’t know or just don’t really realize is that this path is not really self-made. Somebody, somewhere, is in some way affecting the world around us, and in effect, is affecting our lives. We, for that matter, are affecting others’ lives too, through the choices we make and the actions we take. For this very reason, we are all part of a single map.

Although I risk sounding too philosophical here, there exists an invisible link between each of us. Everything and everyone are connected to each other. Once people realize this and attempt to be at peace with this fact, and with just the unpredictable nature of life, the “chaos” around us will look much less dangerous. In essence, life is just like a map, but a dynamic one. We may take some control of the mapping, and chart the direction we would like to be headed towards, but need to understand that we can’t and don’t always need to be in complete control.

Mapping doesn’t have to take a single definition, it can take many. Maps don’t have to be fixed, they can be fluid. 

You may try to have a fixed plan, but things can always change, and that’s completely fine. So, find your place in the map of life, but don’t limit yourself to a certain point or path. Let go, embrace change, live in the moment and be free.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

Steve Jobs

1Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC. It has been identified as having “inspired some of the most important developments in human history, including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops, and the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy, and agriculture“. It has been known as one of the earliest civilizations to ever exist in the world.

2Babylon was the capital city of the ancient Babylonian empire, which itself is a term referring to either of two separate empires in the Mesopotamian area in antiquity.

3The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia.

4Assyria, also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamian kingdom and empire of the Ancient Near East that existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25th century BC.

Featured Image Credit: Scott Soderberg

Ashwin Soorya Prakash

Engineer by profession. Writer by passion. Striving to be the best version of myself.

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