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The New New World (Part 4)

Imagine a shape in the shape of the continental United States. Oh, wait, you don't have to imagine one:

After the recent election, we saw a great many shapes like that, all filled up with one color or another, or little tiny rectangles, or shapes like states with numbers in them. I think you can even get maps that show all the mountains and rivers and cities and roads and stuff.

But I'm not sure you can get a map that shows, say, music. Well you could do a map like this, I suppose:

Which tells you there is music in that USA shape, but that's about all that map tells you. What if you wanted to put, say, Laurie Anderson on that map? Would she be a city somewhere? Or would she be in a particular corner of the map? Maybe you'd put a dot in the USA shape everywhere there are people who like Laurie Anderson's music. You could do a poll. Call people up. Do you like Laurie Anderson's stuff? Yes? Apply a dot. So then you could have a Laurie Anderson map.

Then you could take your Laurie Anderson map and go to all the places where there isn't a Laurie Anderson dot, and you could play her music in those places, just to make sure that people had heard her, and then you could ask your question again and see how many more dots you could put inside the shape. And then when you had done that for everyplace inside the USA shape, you would have a complete map of all the places inside the USA shape that like Laurie Anderson's music.

But you still wouldn't have a map of music, really. I mean, the map wouldn't tell you what you needed to know if you wanted to travel around inside the USA shape to all the music. You'd have to make a map for every kind of music, and then every performer of every kind of music, and then every song every performer of every kind of music ever performed. And all the music that's never been performed. Pretty soon you would have a map that had so much music inside the shape, so many dots, that it would look like one solid color inside the shape. So you'd be right back where you started. You'd just have the USA shape.

And not only that, whenever somebody came along with some new kind of music, a kind of music nobody had ever heard before, you'd have to put down some new dots for those people who'd heard and liked this new kind of music. But the thing is, the map would look the same way it looked before the new music came along. You wouldn't even know a new kind of music had been discovered.

If you were interested in new kinds of music, this would be a very disappointing situation. You would want a map that showed evidence of the discovery of a new kinds of music.

I suppose what you could do, then, would be to take away part of the shape. Squish all the existing music into a reduced shape. Like this:

That way, when some new music came along you could go, "Oh, wait, I have plenty of space for this new music because I took away part of the shape. I'll just add some more space back in and put the new music dots there." Then you could look at the map and see how it had changed. You could see that something new had happened. Yay!

And then you could just repeat that process. Once the new music didn't seem so new anymore, you could squish that new music in with all the old music and shrink the shape again and be all ready for the next bit of new music that comes along.

So you can't really have a map that shows you music, but you can have a map that shows you where some music doesn't exist yet. And you can never use that map up because you can always squish the shape down to make room for more music. That reminds you (and everybody else) that there can always be new kinds of music. All the explorers who have your kind of music map will see the empty spaces and maybe some of them will go there, and then we will all get some new kind of music.

Maps with holes in them are the kind of maps you want. But really, there's not much point in wasting a bunch of paper making up maps like the music map above. All you really need to know is that there is still room on the map for new stuff. So what you want to do is just carry maps like that around in your head. Imaginary maps with all sorts of scary and exciting and interesting unexplored places on them. Incomplete maps of your new New World. You want to go places you've never been before, don't you? You like to travel and explore and discover new things, don't you? You don't want to be a boring old stay-at-home, do you? You call yourself an American?

Here are some other USA maps I've been working on in my head:





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