Learning the Map

A few years ago, a friend of mine told me about some online quizzes that help you learn world geography. I play them every few months, and every time I come back, I have lost fewer of them. Now I put myself to sleep at night by reciting the names of the nations of the world. It’s time for a new challenge. I am going to start on flags now, and then capitals, I think.

One of the powerful benefits of this has been that when I read headlines about the people of The Gambia suing Myanmar for the genocide of the Rohingya people, I no longer think, “Somewhere in Africa” or “Somewhere in Asia.” I see the place on the map. As tensions with Iran have increased, I see Iran in my head, where it is in relation to the countries around it. When students say they come from Thailand, or South Korea, or Singapore, or Ghana, I can picture where they come from on the map in my head. And so I have increased the sense of my own place, my own places, too.

It also increases my anxiety at times. A couple years ago when the Caribbean was torn apart by massive hurricanes, I knew the names of the islands in their paths, could sense the vulnerability in ways I had been previously unable to imagine. But some painful knowings are important knowings, and help me to better understand my own connection to others.

As we apply ourselves to the study of our own inner maps, I think we have similar experiences. When I dare to memorize the shape and location of sadness and despair within myself, then perhaps I can be more attentive when I see it in someone else. “I recognize that!” Joy. Confusion. Satisfaction. Secretiveness. Deviousness. Compassion and Empathy. They all take on more recognizable shapes as I explore their geography within me. And the anxious knowing applies as well. How will your small islands weather the hurricanes of grief and loss and stress? Can you pick up the pieces and set up a new infrastructure when the storms rage through? Hang in there. Put out a call for help to others to send boats and aid, to airlift hope and helping hands.

Gratitude List:
1. Asian New Year celebration at my school today. Such talented students. Songs, drumming, and K-Pop Dancers. Incredible!
2. Half a day to grade. Catching up with myself.
3. I’ve been reading the poetry of Reginald Dwayne Betts in the spaces of the day. His word-work is so inspiring.
4. That samosa a student brought me from their Ethnic Foods class (or maybe it was just Ethnic Foods Unit in a regular Foods class?)
5. Walking, stretching, being good to the organism that is me.

May we walk in Beauty!

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