07 April 2011

The Map is not the Territory

Recently I had an email exchange with a sister in Christ. She said something that reminded me of a lesson I learned 35 or more years ago in a semantics class. My instructor tried her level best to impress upon us that words have meaning; they are the maps we use to convey ideas, emotions and experiences but maps are not the territory. A map may tell you that the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, 10 miles wide and a mile deep and you can understand the meaning of every word but- until you stand on the rim and see it for yourself . You only think you get it. Even pictures cannot do it justice. That's one reason we have so much trouble communicating. Your map and my map may or may not have the same features and legends. Think of the color yellow. While you may be thinking lemon yellow, I may be thinking butter yellow. And my concept of butter yellow may be butter with food coloring added while yours may not. You may not know that they add food coloring to butter.

Our language is both evolving and devolving. If you don't believe me try reading something written just a hundred years ago and consider how many terms and phrases seem completely alien to you not because of cultural and technological changes but because we stopped caring about the specificity of meaning. We are more likely to say that someone is poor rather than choose a word that explains what type of poor they are. Are they impoverished and not impecunious or penurious? LOL used to mean "Little Old Lady" and now few people would think anything but Laughing Out Loud when they see those letters. But let us not be fooled into believing that words mean whatever the reader decides they should mean.

I hang out with people who debate ideas and meanings. Sometimes it wearies me. It requires me to work much harder at conveying my thoughts than I want to, though I understand the value and importance of clear, honest communication; especially with regard to the search for truth. Getting to truth as it defines itself is the point, but as my friend so wisely pointed out, it is possible to work so hard at reading the map that you miss the treasure. The need to have the right doctrine or ideas about God is only the road map. The treasure is repentance, reconciliation and relationship with the Lover of our souls.

That's it for my ramblings today. I need a nap.

John 1:17
17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

John 14:6
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

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