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                                   Map Reading and Life 101

     I really liked algebra in high school. If car A was heading toward car B at a given speed, they were Z distance apart, car B was going at speed X, while car A was at speed Y, at which point would they meet? I didn't care so much at what point they would meet but more about how big the crash would be and who would be killed. My teacher said I was morbid. But I did learn how to get from point A to point B. I believe that to be a significant problem today. Many people don't know how to get from point A to point B, from where they are to where they want to be. They they live in their parent's garage, they stay in bad relationships, they join gangs, and they take drugs. The politicians and news media tell us one of the most significant issues facing America is the drug epidemic. To me, the biggest problems facing America are the politicians and the news media. Be that as it may, many people out there seem to have never learned how to "Live." I remember a map reading class I took when I was in the Cub Scouts, and I think embedded in the class was Life 101.

     Mr. Crockett, our cub scout leader and, oddly enough, later my Algebra teacher, brought some maps and said, "If I dropped you in the middle of the wilderness with only a map of the area and a backpack, what would you do?"

 

     Melvin said if Mr. Crockett drove him to the area, he would just follow the road back. Melvin was majorly ADHD, but we didn't have that back then - we thought he was just PITA - a pain in the... butt. Mr. Crocket said that he would drop him by airplane, to which Melvin said, "What would I do with the parachute?"

 

     Mr. Crockett replied, "What makes you think I would give you a parachute?"  That subdued Melvin for a few minutes and gave Mr. Crockett an opening.

 

     He said that finding your way with a map wasn't that difficult - all you had to do was know where you were, where you wanted to go and find the best route to get there.

 

     "But what if we were lost, Melvin asked, how would we know where we were?"

 

     Mr. Crockett said that was a good point; how do we figure out where we are if we are lost? Melvin suggested finding a service station and asking for directions. Mr. Crocket pointed out that we were in the "wilderness." Melvin conceded and said maybe we would have to find a 7-11; at the time, they were everywhere.

 

     Mr. Crockett, in an attempt to move on, said the very first thing you should do is tell yourself that you were in control and had the resources to find your way.

 

     Thus began my introduction to map reading and I hope you join me on this little journey about how to use map reading for life 101.

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                                                        Pile of Dirt

     I remember attending my daughter’s college graduation and going to an exhibit of finals projects for the Art department graduates. As we viewed the various works, I was drawn to two traffic cones set up by a wall. Looking closer, I discovered an index card hung on the wall between the cones with a student’s name and the name of his art project. Between the cones, on the floor, was a pile of dirt. There was a used sandwich bag protruding, but other than that, it was a pile of dirt. I suspect the cones kept the janitor from sweeping up the student’s finals project.

     “A Pile of Dirt”: In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t a student that woke up from an all-night drinking binge and thought, “Crap! I have my final art project due today.” Maybe they didn’t stumble out of the dorm, eating a sandwich they found in a baggie under their mattress and spy freshly turned soil in a flower bed and come up with an idea. Giving the benefit of the doubt, it is possible that a lot of thought went into that pile of dirt. Art, after all, is an expression of many things. It could represent childhood trauma, the futility of the world, or the struggle between the sexes. I saw a pile of dirt with a sandwich bag.

     Then I thought of the book I wrote. I put a great deal of research into it and tried to make it a tool, to learn from our past mistakes. Maybe it is my pile of dirt. I haven’t heard from my publisher since the book was published seven months ago. My book meant something to me, but maybe most saw a pile of dirt. After all, there were no wizards, no dragons, no spaceships, no mass murderers, and no international spies.

Maybe we all have something that appears on the outside to be ordinary. If we look deeper, we may see hurt, pain, loss, love, or so many other things. Or maybe it is just a pile of dirt.

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