Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Create an Interest Map

Out of the wealth of perceptual data we interact with, certain little tidbits can reach out and intensely and intimately grab my diffuse attentions. Initially they reverberate in my inner chambers as if a koan waiting to be solved. After wrestling with what feels to be this hand-delivered message, I begin to see its implications within the workings of my life. These tidbits are only occasionally cosmologic revelation. Most are revelation of an emerging direction for me to take, a theme bubbling up from beneath conscious awareness, a new personal truth.

One such gripping tidbit came to me during a lecture on alternative methods of bodily health and healing, the tidbit being completely irrelevant to this topic of nutritional supplements and ion cleanses, that is. It was said as a preface, a introductory side note, and yet it was this that I took, like a bright gift, most preciously away from that hour’s time of listening to another. The woman introduced herself, trying to give an appropriate context to house the content she was about to share. Succinctly, and with assurance, she declared, “I am not a master of nutrition nor am I a doctor; I am not a master of physiology, although I do have interest as well as training in these areas. However, I am a master herbalist, and I come from that domain of expertise in talking with you today.” With this tidbit now framing my reference point, I began to see the appeal and advantage of being a master of a domain. It was immediately apparent that I was not a master, not a master of anything -- my intense curiosity, something once uniformly treasured, had prevented me from developing this, this “singularity of purpose” (Bow hunter Cameron Hanes’ phrase – coming to me, again in an unrelated forum –we’re talking bow hunting here, resonating this tidbit). I was in awe of what a master commands, how a master works herself into her field, that a master goes beyond his field and thus can enrich it with his personal contributions. The tidbit evolved into the nagging, as yet unanswered question: What do I want to become a master of?

As a result of this irksome inquiry piercing my thoughts at odd times in all manners of day, I decided to undertake a small project this morning that I called an Interest Map, which I intended to be a visual representation of the web of interests that have developed in recent years, highlighting the ones currently active. I began with my intellectual interests. As an intellectual primarily (although I do affiliate with other identities), I found this an effortless beginning and could easily recall prominent books, classes, and discussion group topics that had a basic theme, easily condensed into a word or two, or at most a phrase. Without too much felt condensation, a whole host of material and thought could be identified simply, as in the Master Herbalist’s summary of herself utilizing one fitting term: Herbalist is all she needs for the no doubt vast array of information, orientation, and experience she has behind her mastery. I found that most interests were evolutionarily linked, meaning I started tracing (usually from the currently active backwards in time) interests in a sort of linkable tree, clearly seeing that my interests held within them a natural order, flow, and sense. This felt really good. Suddenly the chaos of my creativity felt more like a logical flow. Like I was heading toward some master plan. And ‘master plan’ contained the ever-desired root word. Overlaying this skeleton I carved in more word nodes from the non- or somewhat- intellectual of interests: the scope of activities that filled my life, beyond mere reading and its associated ideas. Rather than be adjacent or requiring a second Map, these interests aligned in a great synchrony.
Finally I could relate realms of my life, and deduce the emergence of whole new sectors from previous areas that had been dug around in for a sufficient period of time. Interests do seem botanical (although the metaphor is widely applicable): New shoots seem to necessarily branch off interests that are deeply and thoroughly developed. And I smiled in recollection at the birth of new shoots that came in the form of a tidbit to propel the Interests forward – a two-hour movie, an introductory statement. I began to run this way. About a year ago I saw a runner about my age, female, down a path I was driving along near my home. Very ordinary. We all see runners all the time. This had grazed my retinal impressions countless times. Somehow, that day, it grabbed me intensely and intimately and I immediately knew I needed to do this: My body had this awesome capability within it, without really any outside support, it can run incredibly long distances (well, I did indulge in running shoes and technically as of yet I cannot go very far). I have to be able to do this most human of things, to propel my body forward, to traverse miles and miles without using equipment of any kind. As a book later found says, I was born to run.

Perhaps this will be the tidbit for someone in the virtual ‘out there’.

I share this with you, blog-readers, to encourage you to try out something of an Interest Map of your own as it has revealed to me a great and readable narrative of Interests, a catalog of my first decade of adult years. I will enrich it in days to come, transferring it to a large swath of butcher paper and enlivening it with color and image. Within it, I read off the budding mastery already apparent in my world, as well as relieve myself to pursue whatever mastery I so choose at this particular temporal moment, for all my interests lie in wait, spelled out, on my giant map.

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