Thursday, April 3, 2014
I'm going to kick off my blog's life with an analogy that has been stirring in my head for some time now. I present "The Map":
The galley had been stopped at a small port town for only a few days and was still taking on fresh supplies when a wandering stranger sought out the ship's captain in one of the seaside taverns along the harbor. The stranger was seeking passage to the galley's ultimate destination, he explained, and offered funds to be taken aboard for the duration of the journey. The stranger's funds were adequate for the trip, and the captain agreed to take him on, for the stranger presented well and seemed without undesirable tendencies.
After embarkment and a few days at sea, the captain had conversed enough with the stranger to know that the man was fairly interested in navigation and might even have some insights to contribute; whenever course decisions were made by the captain and a few officers, the stranger was always invited in to observe and offer occasional commentary.
It was on one of these occasions that the stranger began to discern differences between the crew's knowledge of the sea and what the captain's map depicted. As the captain and his crew were conversing and marking out the next several days of sailing, the stranger remarked:
"Could not we instead cut directly between these two masses, avoiding the bowed path you are plotting out?" He pointed to the map.
The crew explained to him that the map was actually outdated in this instance, for a shallow reef, unmarked on the map, spanned across the stranger's proposed route, which would ground and capsize the galley if they tried to bear across.
Over the next several weeks of the voyage, the stranger noted several such instances. The map would picture certain landmasses out of place, or depict barriers not actually present, or as in the first example, simply not account for objects clearly present in the route. The stranger noticed that every time the map contained such an error, captain and crew would automatically correct the route without even needing to mention the discrepancy. Ultimately, it became clear that they knew the sea better than the map itself did, and likely could take the voyage without it.
When the stranger voiced his observation, he was surprised by the reaction:
"No, no," said an officer, "every captain on every ship before us has used this map. Its value is incalculable, and to forfeit the knowledge it presents us would be madness."
This seemed to be the pervading attitude regarding the map, which puzzled the stranger but ultimately brought him no harm as far as he could tell; he was safely deposited at his destination when the voyage finally ended and parted ways with the crew on fair terms. In his subsequent wanderings, he would frequently remember the crew and captain of that galley and shake his head with slight confusion.