The Kingdom of Wisdom, the Isle of Knowledge, and other whimsical geographic representations of the human condition
I love maps.
There's something about cartography that lends itself to visualizing
much more than land and geography. I've previously looked at how the London tube map
was appropriated as a visual metaphor for everything from The Milky Way
to the Kabbalah, and today we turn to seven cartographic
interpretations of the human condition, using the visual vocabulary of
classical maps to interpret various facets of the human psyche--a genre
that came of age during the late Renaissance, when it became known as
The Kingdom of Wisdom
In 1961, Norton Juster wrote The Phantom Tollbooth, a timeless children's classic and one of our essential children's books
with philosophy for grown-ups. It tells the story of a bored little boy
named Milo who one day receives a magic tollbooth that transports him
to a fantasy land called The Kingdom of Wisdom.
Though at first he gets lost in the Doldrums, a grey place where
thinking and laughing are not allowed, he goes on to incredible
adventures before returning to his own room as magically as he had left
This map by mid-century American cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who illustrated the book, depicts the marvelous land that Milo finds himself in as he follows his own curiosity.
Isle of Knowledge
Last week, delicious new work by designer Marian Bantjes (whose latest book, I Wonder, is among the most ambitious and beautiful visual communication volumes ever published) made the rounds--and for good reason: Isle of Knowledge
is a beautifully illustrated map of "the 'known' beyond which lie
monsters," created for the second installment in Bantjes's column for U.K.
illustration magazine Varoom on the theme of "Knowledge."
English artist Grayson Perry's 2004 Map of an Englishman
portrays his mind in a mock-Tudor etch of an imaginary island,
surrounded by the "seas" of his perceived psychological flaws--desires,
vanities, prejudices, fears. The island itself is vaguely brain-shaped,
turning the map into a kind of cartographic phrenology of the self.
Image courtesy of Grayson Perry and The Paragon Press via BBC
Carte de Tendre
Carte de Tendre
(Map of Tenderness) is a 17th-century French map by the writer
Madeleine de Scudéry depicting the peaks and valleys of amorous pursuit,
from the River of Inclination to Lake of Indifference to the Great
Spirit. With its undetermined itinerary that offers you multiple routes
to Tenderness, it's part map, part choose-your-own-adventure narrative
The Empire of Love
We first featured this extraordinary antique German map of Das Reich der Liebe
(The Empire of Love) more than three years ago, and it remains an
absolute favorite. Created by Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf in 1777,
it's a pinnacle of sentimental cartography, as detailed and obsessive
as love itself.
If you don't sprechen Sie Deutch, here's the gist:
DER JUGEND = Land of Youth (Forest of Love, Kiss Field, Flirting Game,
Charm Castle, Stream of Wishes, Worry-Free, Joy's Home, Beautiful House,
Source of Joy, Sweet Look, Wisecrack Place, Rich River, Warning Castle)
GABIET DER RUHE = Land of Rest (Nightcap, Grandfather City, Equanimity, Manly Place)
DER TRAURENDEN LIEBE = Land of Mourning Love (Anger's Home, Flood of
Tears, Whim Mountain, Complaint Place, Hopeless Mountains, Loathing,
Strict Place, Swamp of Profanity, Desert of Melancholy)
GABIET DER LUSTE = Land of Lust (Illness Valley, Weak Home, Intoxication Field, Lechery, Hospital)
GABIET DER GLUCKLICHEN LIEBE = Land of Happy Love (Lust Wood, Answered
Prayers, Pleasant View, Enjoyment, Tenderness, Good Times, Affection
Farm, Satisfaction, Compliance Mountain, Fountain of Joy, Marriage
Harbor, Reward City, Peace of Mind, Bliss Town)
GABIET DER HAGESTOLZE
= Bachelor Country (Stupidity Town, Rejection Place, Irritation,
Indifference, Place of Contempt, Reprehensibility, Old Age Mountains,
Separation, Hat, Obstinacy, Wrangler Hall, Exasperation Heath, Hamlet of
Death, Sea of Doubt)
GABIET DER FIXEN IDEEN = Land of Obsessions
(Place of Sighs, Desire Town, Unrest, City of Dreams, Bridge of Hope,
Disloyalty, Sweet River of Tears, Little Town of Instincts)
His convention speech re-introducing his wife to the country was an uneven, but ultimately effective, performance.
Just before Bill Clinton strode onstage to be his wife’s character witness, his wife’s convention planners played a video tribute to him. “When he said stuff, you believed it,” a man dressed in union gear said of Bill Clinton, “because you lived it.”
This was no accident: An overwhelming number of voters don’t trust Hillary Clinton. That credibility and character gap is the one thing that might stop Americans from electing a second President Clinton. And so the master of persuasion bragged on and on about his wife: career highlights, familiar anecdotes, and enough warm and cheesy sentiments to launch a thousand wedding toasts.
“If you were sitting where I am sitting and you heard what I heard at every dinner conversation and … on every long walk, you would say this woman has never been satisfied with the status quo about anything,” Bill Clinton said. Having been the candidate of change in 1992, Bill Clinton knows his wife faces headwinds against Donald Trump’s promise of radical, unruly change. “She always wants to move the ball forward,” Bill Clinton said. “That just who she is.”
The First Lady took to the stage at the Democratic National Convention, and united a divided hall.
Most convention speeches are forgotten almost before they’re finished. But tonight in Philadelphia, Michelle Obama delivered a speech that will be replayed, quoted, and anthologized for years. It was as pure a piece of political oratory as this campaign has offered, and instantly entered the pantheon of great convention speeches.
Obama stepped out onto a stage in front of a divided party, including delegates who had booed almost every mention of the presumptive nominee. And she delivered a speech that united the hall, bringing it to its feet.
She did it, moreover, her own way—forming a striking contrast with the night’s other speakers. She did it without shouting at the crowd. Without overtly slamming Republicans. Without turning explicitly negative. Her speech was laden with sharp barbs, but she delivered them calmly, sometimes wryly, biting her lower lip, hitting her cadence. It was a masterful performance.
In his convention speech, he suggested that Muslims need to earn the rights that all other Americans enjoy.
I love Bill Clinton. But I didn’t love his speech Tuesday night in Philadelphia. Given the job of humanizing his wife, he came across as genuinely smitten. But he failed to do what he’s done in every convention speech he’s delivered since 1992: tell a story about where America is today and what can be done to move it forward. He called his wife a great “change maker” but didn’t define the change America needs right now.
But the worst moment of the speech came near its end, when Clinton began to riff about the different kinds of people who should join Hillary’s effort. “If you love this country, you’re working hard, you’re paying taxes, you’re obeying the law and you’d like to become a citizen, you should choose immigration reform over someone that wants to send you back,” he said. Fair enough. Under any conceivable immigration overhaul, only those undocumented immigrants who have obeyed the law once in the United States—which includes paying taxes—will qualify for citizenship. Two sentences later, Clinton said that, “If you’re a young African American disillusioned and afraid … help us build a future where no one’s afraid to walk outside, including the people that wear blue to protect our future.” No problem there. Of course African Americans should be safe from abusive police, and of course, police should be safe from the murderers who threaten them.
Four decades after he asked his wife to set aside her own ambitions, he asked Americans to return her to the White House in her own right.
On Tuesday night, Bill Clinton spoke before thousands of delegates at the Democratic National Convention, and did his best to repay a debt he’d incurred 45 years before. He met Hillary in 1971, and she married him four years later. “I really hope,” he said, “that her choosing me and rejecting my advice to pursue her own career was a decision she would never regret.”
Now, as she pursues the presidency in her own right, he took the opportunity to reintroduce her to the public, spending most of his time on stage rehearsing the years before she became a national figure. “Cartoons are two-dimensional,” Clinton said, and did his best to render his wife vivid, human, and real.
It was a speech that aimed to move past some of the central paradoxes of Clinton’s candidacy. She sacrificed her ambitions to advance her husband’s career, but his success has now enabled her own rise. Most Americans view her unfavorably, and yet she has just become the first woman to be a major-party nominee for the president.
Why Donald Trump’s recent comments on the alliance caused such an uproar
Donald Trump shocked foreign-policy professionals and observers when he remarked to The New York Times that if he were president, the United States might not come to the defense of an attacked NATO ally that hadn’t fulfilled its “obligation to make payments.” The remark broke with decades of bipartisan commitment to the alliance and, as Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in The Atlantic, aligned well with the interests of Russia, whose ambitions NATO was founded largely to contain. One Republican in Congress openly wondered whether his party’s nominee could be “seemingly so pro-Russia” because of “connections and contracts and things from the past or whatever.”
It’s not unlike Trump to make shocking statements. But these ones stokedparticularalarm, not least among America’s allies, about the candidate’s suitability for the United States presidency. So what’s the big deal? What does NATO actually do?
When something goes wrong, I start with blunder, confusion, and miscalculation as the likely explanations. Planned-out wrongdoing is harder to pull off, more likely to backfire, and thus less probable.
But it is getting more difficult to dismiss the apparent Russian role in the DNC hack as blunder and confusion rather than plan.
“Real-world” authorities, from the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia to FBI sources to international security experts, say that the forensic evidence indicates the Russians. No independent authority strongly suggests otherwise. (Update the veteran reporters Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef cite evidence that the original hacker was “an agent of the Russian government.”)
The timing and precision of the leaks, on the day before the Democratic convention and on a topic intended to maximize divisions at that convention, is unlikely to be pure coincidence. If it were coincidence, why exactly now, with evidence drawn from hacks over previous months? Why mail only from the DNC, among all the organizations that have doubtless been hacked?
The foreign country most enthusiastic about Trump’s rise appears to be Russia, which would also be the foreign country most benefited by his policy changes, from his sowing doubts about NATO and the EU to his weakening of the RNC platform language about Ukraine.
Stock-market crashes, terrorist attacks, and the dark side of “newsworthy” stories
Man bites dog. It is one of the oldest cliches in journalism, an acknowledgement of the idea that ordinary events are not newsworthy, whereas oddities, like a puppy-nibbling adult, deserve disproportionate coverage.
The rule is straightforward, but its implications are subtle. If journalists are encouraged to report extreme events, they guide both elite and public attitudes, leading many people, including experts, to feel like extreme events are more common than they actually are. By reporting on only the radically novel, the press can feed a popular illusion that the world is more terrible than it actually is.
Take finance, for example. Professional investors are fretting about the possibility of a massive stock-market crash, on par with 1987’s Black Monday. The statistical odds that such an event will occur within the next six months are about 1-in-60, according to historical data from 1929 to 1988. But when surveys between 1989 and 2015 asked investors to estimate the odds of such a crash in the coming months, the typical response was 1-in-10.
The pressures of national academic standards have pushed character education out of the classroom.
A few months ago, I presented the following scenario to my junior English students: Your boyfriend or girlfriend has committed a felony, during which other people were badly harmed. Should you or should you not turn him or her into the police?
The class immediately erupted with commentary. It was obvious, they said, that loyalty was paramount—not a single student said they’d “snitch.” They were unequivocally unconcerned about who was harmed in this hypothetical scenario. This troubled me.
This discussion was part of an introduction to an essay assignment about whether Americans should pay more for ethically produced food. We continued discussing other dilemmas, and the kids were more engaged that they’d been in weeks, grappling with big questions about values, character, and right versus wrong as I attempted to expand their thinking about who and what is affected—and why it matters—by their caloric choices.
Hillary Clinton made history on Tuesday night—and her husband reintroduced the first woman to secure a major-party nomination to America.
In a historic moment, the Democratic Party formally nominated Hillary Clinton for president Tuesday, making her the first female nominee for the nation’s highest office in 240 years.
The vote was merely a formality, despite the noisy protestations of some diehard supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders himself made a powerful gesture toward party unity, requesting that Vermont cast its votes last so that he could step to the microphone and deliver Clinton the nomination he had fought so hard to wrest from her. “I move that all votes cast by delegates be reflected in the official record, and I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,” Sanders said. And that was that: Clinton crashed through at least one of the “highest, hardest” glass ceilings that, as she put it eight years ago, she had only managed to imprint with 18 million cracks.
Psychologists have long debated how flexible someone’s “true” self is.
Almost everyone has something they want to change about their personality. In 2014, a study that traced people’s goals for personality change found that the vast majority of its subjects wanted to be more extraverted, agreeable, emotionally stable, and open to new experiences. A whopping 97 percent said they wished they were more conscientious.
These desires appeared to be rooted in dissatisfaction. People wanted to become more extraverted if they weren’t happy with their sex lives, hobbies, or friendships. They wanted to become more conscientious if they were displeased with their finances or schoolwork. The findings reflect the social psychologist Roy Baumeister’s notion of “crystallization of discontent”: Once people begin to recognize larger patterns of shortcomings in their lives, he contends, they may reshuffle their core values and priorities to justify improving things.