Fresh Baked Bread

A clean sheet of paper; a clear, empty room; a fresh, inexperienced mind; pristine, wild land; a youthful body, untouched by age or injury or disease. 

Do you remember your first kiss? Your first serious injury? Your first taste of alcohol? The sound of your child’s first laughter? 

Once we have an experience, the details of that experience are added to our already-existing mental map of reality. Some experiences, such as eating a piece of fresh baked bread, have already been etched onto our mental map hundreds (or even thousands) of times. We have a variety of details from different experiences that we file under “eating fresh baked bread” – what it smells like, tastes like, sounds like and so on. It is a very known experience, with little room for possibility or imagination. 

Other experiences are relatively unknown to us, because we have not had a direct experience ourselves, but we still have the stories shared by other people. As an example, most of us have heard about astronauts living in outer space, and so we have some understanding of what that is like even though we have not lived there ourselves. We already have a mental map – albeit a crude, incomplete map – of what living in space feels like, sounds like, smells like. And this type of vicarious mapping occurs throughout our lives, with stories of our family’s and friends’ experiences; descriptions found in books, blogs, vlogs, movies or other art mediums; corporate and pharmaceutical advertisements; political propaganda; religious indoctrination. These are second-hand (sometimes more) accounts that become part of our own mental map. 

The work of finding joy, possibility and imagination lies in the practice of recognizing that experience is just a map. It can be redrawn. 

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