You’ve noticed things are just not right. You may have had a sinking suspicion for years now or perhaps something more recent has set you off. You can’t quite explain it and you’re fearful to say it out loud to anyone else. For when you look around it seems that everyone else is going about with a “business as usual attitude.”
Maybe it’s the fact you graduated college yet the real world has not delivered on the promises that the University had been whispering in your ear the last four years.
Perhaps it’s the fact that the woman you loved and in turn thought had loved you back was really just cheating on you for all those years.
And maybe it’s just seeing all the headlines in the news that don’t seem to match the reality you live in day in and day out.
Whatever it is you just know something isn’t right and it’s driving you crazy because either no one else notices it or everyone is choosing to ignore it.
“The map is not the territory…” – Alfred Korzybski Science & Sanity
Let’s say you are cleaning your childhood room, perhaps you’re finally moving out. While going through some old things you find a map you had drawn out of your neighborhood. It’s drawn in crayons, the lines are shaky and it’s obvious you were very young when you had drawn it up. Would you use this map to navigate yourself out of your neighborhood?
No, because although you recognize the drawing as a map you realize that it is an inaccurate model. The map is not the territory…
You see, we live in two worlds. The first is of the world that is happening around you. It is all the information that you know of first hand. This is a small world, consisting of only things we have actually seen, felt, or heard. It is the constant flow of events that are passing before our senses.
Think about what you know firsthand. When you think about it you discover that you know very little.
Most of what we learn is acquired from parents, friends, our educational system, books, television, and the internet. All of this knowledge is received verbally—that is in words. Even most of our knowledge of history comes to us in words. They come from reports which are based on other reports: reports of reports of reports, which go back in the end to the firsthand accounts of people who did see it happening.
This knowledge, this world, we understand that comes from words we’ll call the verbal world.
The second world that we know through our experiences we’ll call the existential world.
We meet the existential world from the start, at infancy. Once we can understand we start to receive reports, reports of reports, reports of reports of reports. On top of this we also derive or receive conclusions drawn from evidence or reasoning. So if the average six years old has gone to school, has made friends, watched TV, owns a cellphone (shocking), and browsed the internet—just in those few years they have already accumulated a giant amount of second—and third hand—and even more with the internet—information about morals, language, history, nature, people, games, all which build our verbal world.
So with our knowledge we gain from the verbal world it is there that we create a map to navigate our way through life and the existential world. But how do we know we’re following the right map? If we’re watching the news, getting an education, and reading one would think that our maps are drawn out pretty accurately but the verbal world can be a tricky thing.
Since the verbal world is knowledge through words let’s take a look at language.
Since the beginning of time we as humans have agreed to let various noises to stand for a specified happening in our nervous system. This system of agreement is called language. So any word is essentially a symbol. Now it’s important to understand that language is the most highly developed, most subtle, and most complicated form of symbolism. Here’s where things get tricky:
There is no necessary connection between the symbol and that which is symbolized.
One can make the noise “I’m hungry” without being hungry. Just as the fact of being hungry can be symbolized by a thousand different noises (languages) according to the culture we live in. It is important to realize symbols and things symbolized are independent of each other; nevertheless, we all have a way of feeling as if, and sometimes acting as if, there were necessary connections.
When calling a messy person a pig we chose to do this because in our minds without even thinking about it a pig is a dirty animal. We feel then, that the symbol is inherently connected in some way with the thing symbolized.
It should seem obvious that we should be aware that symbols are independent of what is symbolized. But we are not. Most of us through years of learning (and brainwashing), in some area or another in our thinking, have developed the wrong habits of evaluation. Why is that?
Most societies systematically encourage, concerning certain topics, the habitual confusion of symbols with things symbolized.
Think about how our society encourages us to go in debt to have the better car, the bigger house, and latest Apple product. Why do people do this? These things, we have been taught, are symbols of prosperity and status. We are more concerned to appear prosperous rather than be prosperous.
We want the symbol rather than what it stands for.
Take a moment and think about if you fall in the charade of following society in the Keeping up with the Jones’ attitude. One might also call this status slavery.
The habitual confusion of symbols with things symbolized, whether on the part of individuals or societies, is serious enough at all levels of culture to provide a continuing problem for humans. Today it is even direr with the hyper driven communication world we live in.
- The internet gives a platform for all to publish whatever prejudices and obsessions of theirs whether the truth or not.
- Our options of TV programming has grown more vast along with 24/7 news cycles that are dominated by commercial motives.
- Corporations, politicians, celebrities are counseled by Public relation companies who are paid in the art of manipulating and reshaping our semantic environment in ways favorable to their clients.
Today it is now more important to be aware of the powers and limitations of words with our constant barrage of information being stuffed down our throats. Not knowing this can lead to dangerous consequences. So let’s review:
The symbol is not the thing symbolized
The word is not the thing
The map is not the territory is stands for.
The map you create from the verbal world ought to relate fairly well to the extensional world just as a map does to the territory it’s supposed to represent. As you grow older the verbal world in your head should correspond to the extensional world you find yourself in. If you can do this you are prone to less danger of being shocked by what you find because your verbal world has told you, more or less, what to expect. Having an accurate map prepares you for life.
But what happens when your map isn’t accurate?
- You’ll run into constant trouble
- You’ll waste your efforts not realizing what you’re doing is wrong
- You will act and look like a fool to others.
With an inaccurate map you will not be adjusted to the world as it is and this lack of adjustment can have heinous consequences.
Today more and more young men and women find themselves stranded in the world with a map that does not represent the world they live in:
- Women, who were told they could have it all with a career and family, yet reach their thirties with a successful career they’ve focused on but no family.
- Men who thought they had married the love of their life only to end up with half their shit gone.
- Boys who thought that because they were nice and respectful that they would find a girl who respected them back just to find out the opposite.
- Twentysomethings who feel entitled to whatever because their whole life they were told they were a unique and beautiful snowflake that could do whatever they want
When people are led astray with an inaccurate map it can lead some to snap. Look at Elliot Rodgers, he thought because he was nice, rich, and decently attractive that women should just flock to him. Yet he found that the map he had created wasn’t portraying the world he was living in. He couldn’t accept that his map was wrong and it caused him to snap and to go on a rampage. Honestly I don’t see things like this stopping as long as society keeps progressing the way we are.
And yet if you can realize that your map is wrong there’s nothing stopping you from changing it. Just check out Tom Arrow and his fascinating blog Man Without Father. The Red Pill on Reddit is another example of men who felt like they were walking through the world with an inaccurate map. There is a lot of negativity surrounding the Red Pill but as we know words are only symbols and they may not represent what is being symbolized.
If you find yourself constantly at a dead end, if you feel like something isn’t right it’s probably not the existential world because the world will keep doing what the world does best, turning and not giving a fuck about you. If you cry that it’s just not fair or it should be like this than perhaps you should look down to the map you’ve created. Then look back up to the world and see if they’re similar. The problem isn’t the existential world, it’s you and your verbal world.
PS: This blog post was inspired by a 3 part essay on the Druid Report that got me to pull out and old book of mine Language in Thought & Action by: S.I. Hayakawa and Alan R. Hayakawa.
PPS: If you feel like you’ve been wondering around with an inaccurate map don’t fret everyone does technically. I did too for some time, and the best three books to help you build a better map would be Gorilla Mindset, Essays on Embracing Masculinity, 30 Days of Discipline