the map of everything

i drove with my roommate andrew hippie up the 5 to albany today. this is the quasi-suburban post-agricultural community where i grew up. anymore, big fields full of soggy sheep make up only 5% of the town's staggering sprawl of grass seed fields, department stores and bowling alleys.

as soon as we got off the freeway, i started giving hippie directions, pointing out the turn he should take to get to his destination and gesturing toward the starbucks where i would study while i waited for him. i realized in this trip that i know the town pretty well. i know good shortcuts, cheap restaurants and chill coffeeshops. i have the much-coveted skill of being able to get around albany, oregon.

that said, i don't think i could draw a map of it. what i have is a ground-level knowledge, a hands-on appropriation of the information required to travel around a rather limited slice of human civilization. i can't begin to tell you all the street names.

the world is a big place. if you look up at night you might infer that it's just one world in an even bigger place. since i can't map out albany, mapping out the universe would be pretty difficult. if i had to guess what the world was like, based on my experience of albany, though, i guess i would do alright.

i would first mention that it's cold and rainy (9 mos. a year). i might also be able to conclude that the main export of the universe is grass seed and that most of the people are christians, but they sure don't act like they talk. i could then conclusively say that the universe is filled with hypercaffeinated, materialistic, fast-food munching hillbillies.

i feel like trying to get at absolute truth through personal experience is a bit like me trying to map out the universe from my personal knowledge of traveling it. there's just too much, and in many ways i'm just too small. i don't have sufficient experience or the right kind.

what is and what isn't? that question always confuses me.

as ever,



  1. Dude, nice illustration!

    I think it's that kind of honesty with the limitations of our knowledge that drives some to an epistemology which is more personalized (sometimes in the sense of an individual person, but perhaps better in the sense of an individual community) and situation-based. Such a position will of course be harshly criticized by some as "moral relativism", despite the fact that honesty, not plurality, is the intended goal.

  2. mhmm. this is why it's good that we're not alone, yes? and if there is a God who communicates with us about the nature of the universe, our own authority is not all that we have to go on.

  3. @andrew: thanks, man! very interesting...

    @melody: yes, precisely. i think we are both hoping the same Hope.