No place to look from and nothing to see, a real spaghetti sandwich all
right with the ends hanging out. But at least we're all in it together and
have developed some practical tactics which seem to work more or less in
a way (but mostly more less than more). In order to keep our selves intact,
you, me and the other guys, we all make maps of the Territory. That is to
say, instead of trying to see the Territory in a whole, big way, we settle
with seeing the Territory as a number of parts that somehow fit together
into a pattern. A map organizes the parts from the point of view of the
map user so he can recognize features of the Territory from his own subjective
position and use them. A map is a short-term solution that enables the map
user to act specifically within the Territory.
Actually there isn't anything wrong with mapping the Territory to some
extent. A map does enable you to do something in the Territory with at least
some degree of success. I mean if you just sat around and waited until you
could see the whole Territory you might never get to breakfast. So as an
initial activity mapping does have some validity. It gives you some way
temporarily to deal with the difficult situation of finding yourself inside
the Territory with no way to see the Territory as a whole.
But unfortunately there is a tendency to get hung up with the maps, to
forget the fact that there is a Territory the maps are referring to. As
you get better and better at making maps there is a tendency to make maps
that are more and more complex and incorporate more of the parts you mistakenly
see. Maps work so well in a short-term way that you start to use them every
day as a way to see the Territory. Even though you never really do get the
map that works perfectly, you begin to believe that you could if you wanted,
that it's all just a matter of time and refinement. And when this finally
happens the map becomes the Territory for you and you no longer try to see
the Territory at all. You concentrate on developing the map you have at
The next thing to do if you continue on in this hazardous way is to value
the map itself more than what the map is mapping. The final stage is even
worse than that: you start to make your perceptions fit the map you are
trying to develop. This is not a good move at all because once you start
making your perceptions fit your map it becomes more and more difficult
to change your map or throw it away. But the Territory is constantly changing,
sometimes more, sometimes less relative to any one personal place, so the
map you use turns increasingly skewed even from your own personal point
of view. What was once a safe, usable map becomes dangerous and destructive.
But if you've gotten into the practice of making your perceptions fit your
map, you'll never notice this is happening at all until it's too late. And
even then you won't realize that the problem is with your map and not with
When you think about it, most of us are just such compulsive map makers.
It's surprising really that everyone manages to survive more or less, and
even more surprising how tenaciously we hold onto maps even when the maps
are causing so much pain and difficulty. We want to keep our maps intact
even if it means forgetting all about the Territory.
We've been given maps of how to see the world ever since we were born.
We've been trained by others to see the world in ways that are not our own.
Fathers and mothers and friends and lovers, schools and books and fools
and crooks, TV and papers, political capers and society at large describe
the world to us continually. They even insist we make maps ourselves instead
of trying to really see what the maps are referring to. As we mature we
choose the map we decide to prefer and study it studiously. Whatever personal
sights we might still have of the world around us are made to fit this map.
We soon turn away from the Territory and all we see is the map.
Maybe this wouldn't be so bad if there wasn't really a Territory that the maps are referring to. But there is. The Territory is real, it really is there and all of us are part of it. There is only one thing, just the Territory, just that. It might look one way to you and another to me because we occupy different relative positions inside it, but we can both (if we want to) agree that we are seeing the same single thing together.