“The explorer returned to his people, who were eager to know about the Amazon. But how could he ever put into words the feelings that flooded his heart when he saw exotic flowers and heard the night-sounds of the forest; when he sensed the danger of wild beasts or paddled his canoe over treacherous rapids?
He said, “Go and find out for yourselves.” To guide them he drew a map of the river. They pounced upon the map. They framed it in their town hall. They made copies of it for themselves. And all who had a copy considered themselves experts on the river, for did they not know its every turn and bend, how broad it was and how deep, where the rapids were and where the falls?”
– Anthony De Mello, The Explorer
Reading this story three times, my mind flashed back on moments over the last year when I transcended the maps: hiking trails where every rock was a wince, Scottish roads that proved narrower and a spouse who grew more horrified by the non-existent shoulder than the oncoming truck, carefully arranged graduation reservations scrapped by COVID and a banner at the ready should a party someday be a reality. Each an example of what I thought I knew turned on its head. Each a learning experience.
2020 was the big number on the horizon we all wondered about. Places we’d be, events we’d experience, moments we’d celebrate. Now we’re all living through the actual 2020, in ways that we didn’t anticipate. It’s just like any other map or plan in that way. Each event, each trip, each person and each day won’t be what you expected in some way or another. The maps and guides and itineraries and YouTube videos of those who went before help frame things, but you’ve got to go out and experience life to really know anything at all.
We all think we know how things are going to turn out. But living through the moment, exploring and testing our limits of understanding and endurance, going and finding out for yourselves, that’s where the knowing is. That’s where we fully realize the feelings that flood our hearts.