Boundaries—A map and territory experiment. [post-rationality]

Origi­nal post: http://​bear­lamp.com.au/​bound­aries/​

This is an ex­per­i­men­tal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of map and ter­ri­tory.

Map and ter­ri­tory is a re­la­tion­ship where the map rep­re­sents the ter­ri­tory.. The map is not the ter­ri­tory, that we know.

Scrib­bling on the map does not change the territory

I am in my house, sit­ting at a table with a pic­ture of planet earth. There’s a re­la­tion­ship be­tween the pic­ture and my­self be­cause tech­ni­cally I am in that pic­ture map. But also I am look­ing at that pic­ture and I recog­nise it as a map of the ter­ri­tory that I live in. There’s a bound­ary be­tween me and the map.

Now I have a map of the land mass of Aus­tralia. I am both in a ter­ri­tory rep­re­sented by the map, and this map de­scribes me (weakly).

Now I have a map of my city. There’s again the same re­la­tion­ship. Two ways. I am in my city, but also my city map is sep­a­rate from me be­cause it sits on my table in front of me.

now I have a map (floor­plan) of my house.

I am look­ing at a piece of pa­per, the map is ex­ter­nal to the ter­ri­tory of me walk­ing around my house.

Now I have a 3d model of my house. It in­cludes the table I’m stand­ing in front of, and a mini ver­sion of all my maps on the table, and a 3d house model.

there’s a bound­ary where I am look­ing at the map and not in the map.

but I’ve also got a lit­tle figurine of my­self in my 3d model. My figurine ap­pears to be look­ing at the mini 3d model of the house that’s rest­ing on his table. There’s a bound­ary here. A re­la­tion­ship be­tween me and the model.

where I am look­ing at an ex­ter­nal model of my­self look­ing at an ex­ter­nal model of my­self.

But now I am here. In my head. With an in­ter­nal map of my­self, stand­ing here, look­ing at my­self in the whole­ness of my be­ing, and I ask,

“where is the bound­ary be­tween my­self and the map?”


Now might be a good time to pause or re­flect on the ex­er­cise be­fore read­ing on. Ob­vi­ously I can’t make you do that but I con­sid­ered end­ing the whole ar­ti­cle here for that effect.


Some Discussion

Friend: would it be that you is what re­mains when you turn away from the map. If it’s in your mind, then you re­main when you stop think­ing of the map?

Me: “what is the “you” that re­mains when “you” stop think­ing of the map?

Friend: If we define iden­tity the way I think you’re point­ing at, then the you con­stantly changes. So, sure, that “you” is no longer there when you turn away from the map.

Me: Yes. From that place, re­peat­ing the ex­er­cise, the new map now in­cludes that in­for­ma­tion “the ‘you’ always changes“. And I can ask the same ques­tion. “what is the you that re­mains sep­a­rate from the map?”


Ex­ist­ing map-less is very hard. The hu­man brain re­ally likes to put maps around things. I will be think­ing, “I am map-less” and then re­al­ise that “think­ing, ‘I am map-less’” is a map too. There is a re­al­i­sa­tion that there is only one real ter­ri­tory (that we live in), and it’s very hard to ex­ist in the ter­ri­tory and not the map. And a fur­ther re­al­i­sa­tion that, for ev­ery­one else who ex­ists in their maps and not “in the ter­ri­tory” they are also just gen­uinely ex­ist­ing in the ter­ri­tory too be­cause maps are in the ter­ri­tory too.

From that place can come an ac­cep­tance of any­one and any­thing as they are. Be­ing as their be­ing is, bring­ing what they bring. Be­cause that’s (from my per­spec­tive, from the out­side that per­son) the ter­ri­tory.


I feel like this ex­er­cise has the op­por­tu­nity to gen­er­ate weird feel­ings. Some­times con­fu­sion, some­times fear or dizzy or any num­ber of other ex­pe­riences. That’s the point. The pur­pose is to then en­able the ex­per­i­menter to ex­plore the feel­ings that have come up. What does that mean for the na­ture of re­al­ity that I live in. What’s the dizzy try­ing to help ex­plain to me? I won­der what is go­ing on.


Spe­cial men­tion of the book No Boundary by Ken Wilbur of In­te­gral Theory