Friday, 20 April 2012


When you are trying to figure out where to go, whether you’re in a car, or a city street or even in the wilds of the wild wood, do you turn the map or do you just read it like a book? I have to confess I can’t read a map period. I had a book once the kernel of which was that the structure of women’s brain differs from that of men’s brains and this is why women cannot read maps-I threw the book away. The two women with whom I have had my most significant relationships, my late first wife and my present wife were/are excellent map readers. I am not.

What does that say? Probably that I cannot read a map and nothing more, I dislike this idea that men and women are fundamentally different. I just do not buy it. I think people are different but I do not think you can simply apportion sets of behaviours, strengths and needs by gender alone. It makes it too simple, dumbs it down. We humans are too complex for that.

We are all different, no one would argue that, would they? I think that most of the troubles we face as a species arise from individuals or groups who believe that they have THE ANSWER, that they have a solution/perspective that works for them in their present situation and who make the mistake that their answer/solution/perspective must therefore work for all of humanity. It never does, because we are all different.

Instead of seeing this as an impediment we should be celebrating our differences, our uniqueness and the diversity of our experiences and beliefs.

It does not matter if you turn the map to the direction you are facing, or if you just know where you are on the printed paper or if like me you ask a passerby. Let’s celebrate our differences. It is our differences after all, that make us all humans.

Here is a poem about maps. This cartographical chain of thought got started off on Monday evening for me at a poetry workshop. We were asked to write a poem about maps and this is what I came up with.


I know I am less secure than you,

Perhaps it is a matter of trust,

But I do not believe I can translate

These lines and symbols into directions,

With the sureness of your knowledge.

I leave a trail of visual breadcrumbs

Scattered across my short term memory,

I stop under street signs and turn the map to reassure

I can find my path to our hotel, I think,

So I will go where I will

In a city that stretches to the river,

As spring unfolds into summer.

Let me know if you turn the map or not. Have a good week. I’ll leave you with a joke? Why did it take Ulysses so long to get back home after the Trojan War?

He was a man and couldn’t ask for directions!


  1. I really like and agree with what you wrote about trouble coming from groups of people believing they possess "the answer."

  2. I love the sentiments here! Both in the post, and in the poem. Generalizing does no one any good.

    And I totally turn the map. :)

  3. Ooh I've just read this. Lovely poem!

    1. Thanks Carol. It's one of my favourites. Lisbon is a wonderful city to spend a few days just walking.