“I asked the Zebra,
are you black with white stripes?
Or white with black stripes?
And the zebra asked me,
Are you good with bad habits?
Or are you bad with good habits?
Are you noisy with quiet times?
Or are you quiet with noisy times?
Are you happy with some sad days?
Or are you sad with some happy days?
Are you neat with some sloppy ways?
Or are you sloppy with some neat ways?
And on and on and on and on and on and on he went.
I’ll never ask a zebra about stripes…again.”
― Shel Silverstein
One thing that most map makers will tell you is that they dislike having blank areas on their maps. Areas where its not quite mountain or prairie, dessert or ocean but some undefined combination of one or more. It was easy a millennium or so back. If there was an undefined place on the map and intrepid explorers not yet found to explore it, the mapmakers would simply put “Here be Dragons” and that was enough for most people. There seemed very few people willing to prove them wrong. If not dragons than just about anything can be put down. It helps if its something that’s slightly intimidating.
We see that a bit now with psychiatrists and therapists mapping their patients’ heads. They too seem to share a dislike of undefined and paradoxical areas. Dragons don’t seem to hold the terror that they did so long ago so now these cranial mapmakers have a new set of mythological creatures, equally guaranteed to cause terror and reluctance to explore further. They call these designations. They use mysterious acronyms like ADHD or PTSD or anyone of several others to define them and then treat them with drugs that make the designations meaningless as those taking them tend to become a lot less interesting to map as their behaviours become if not more animated, more socially acceptable. Whenever these drugs seem to stop working or cause unexpected behaviours, new drugs are tried. No new mapping is done, after all the area in question has been mapped off already, we ‘know’ there are dragons there. It just becomes a matter of treating them. It becomes a matter of finding the right drugs to shut off the behaviours rather than mapping what’s causing them in the first place.
Yesterday we talked about paradox. Today about areas that are less than defined. Both cases where there is not a simple one to one correspondence between map and territory. Both solved with quick fixes. Ultimately both seem to have a lot in common with that story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
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