Wednesday, April 17, 2013

giver of immortal gladness

Great abilities, unless supported by virtues, are in danger, and seldom prove a blessing.
--Edward Sorin

Here's the thing: I love maps.
I love maps a lot.
The one thing (among the many things) I cherish about London-town is that there are maps everywhere, on every street corner.
These little map-stands win the title "The Most Delightful Appliances in the World" for two solid reasons.
Reason the First, or the more pragmatic reason:
They are a God-send when you are lost. Never have I felt relief more palpable then when I'm hopelessly lost in some god-forsaken neighborhood like Dalston, and I stumble upon a small little durable-plastic rectangular prism standing sentinel on the street corner, with a greyscale map of the immediate area (landmarks highlighted in yellow) to orient myself.
God-sends, I tell you.

Reason the Second, a reason born of whimsy:
Even when I'm not truly lost, I will sometimes stop and examine the map.
Sometimes, to cement the layout of a more unfamiliar borough into my memory.
Sometimes, just because examining where you are is absolutely delightful.
You stop, and take note of your surroundings.
You look on the map, and see where the cartographer placed them conscientiously.
You remember when you were but a callow young newcomer to London and didn't know which was was downstream or upstream.
You certainly didn't know that Mayfair was right across Piccadilly from Green Park.

Sometimes, maps are ineffectual for what you really want to do.
C.S. Lewis always said that it's one thing to look at a map of the Atlantic, and an entirely different thing to go down to the beach and encounter it.
Navigation via map is always an mentally exciting, intellectually thrilling sort of endeavor.
But it's another thing entirely to find yourself on a street corner with no map, and just walk in the direction to think must be right.
Better yet, you find yourself on a street corner with a map, but the street you seek isn't even on it.
Guided by Isaiah's still small wind of calm and the dim memories of maps seen before, you set out into the deep.
If you simply persevere with patience, and follow the streets just further than you think you need to, you'll find "Farm Street" marked in stylish letters on the street sign.
And you find that you've reached your destination, due to no merit or map of your own.

The world is a shade gentler and filled with more delight when each destination is not a new territory to conquer, but your own personal Narnia, that you find, without looking for, hidden in the place you least expect.

Farm Street Church--the Jesuit Church of London. Had to visit in honor of Papa Francesco, you see.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
"Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!"
And he replied:
"Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."
--M.L. Haskins

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