There were no such places as Antarctica or Australia. Perhaps half of North America did not exist. That is, none of them existed in the mind of the French mapmaker who drew the antique map I pondered. I noted that the mapmaker had even written, “Terre Australe Inconnue” (Unknown Southern Land) at the southern reaches of the Pacific Ocean.
It must have been thrilling to be a cartographer during the Age of European Discovery of the rest of the world. In many cases, map makers accompanied expeditions or were, themselves, the explorers. One wonders what these cartographers imagined the unknown areas to be like. Society during the European Age of Discovery referred to our planet by different paradigms than those of today. Their concept of the unknown was conjured up through more “divine” filters. Their “discoveries” were dedicated to monarchies and the Roman Catholic Church. The cartographer who drafted this world map thought of our home planet in ways that would be foreign to most of us today.
Today, we believe that there is no end to the unknown. Can what we cannot even imagine be discovered by you and me? Is it possible that what is not in our range of intellect and wildest imaginings be explored? How much of what we make of the unknown is dependent upon our subjective projection of the known?
Humanity has learned over the aeons that the unknown cannot be understood by limiting ourselves to our ideas about the known. In fact, when we stumble upon understanding some unknown aspect of the world or the Universe, we deepen our understanding of the known.
Our minds create concepts or fantasies about the known. We cannot fathom what we don’t know. The unknown is literally out of our depth. Our concepts are fabricated out of what we and our ancestors have known about the past. The past thinking was conditioned, shaped, and imagined by many factors observable and fashioned out of beliefs. Concepts of the unknown evolved and were modified according to circumstances and dogmatic regulations, sometimes brutally enforced by religious and political officialdom. Thinking outside of the box was heresy.
The unknown is best explored by experiencing, not interpreting. Our thought colors, modifies, and continually shapes our personal techniques of exploration and discovery. When we stop experiencing, thought and belief takes over and begins categorizing what we experience. The thought and belief put our discoveries into mental boxes. When we wall off the unknown, we limit our ability to experience, discover, and deepen our knowledge of reality.
Our minds conceptualize naturally. We observe something and then we automatically name it, categorize it, and store it in memory. When we consciously observe the workings of the mind, we are better able to understand the limitations of the mind. When the mind begins to “see” itself, consciousness becomes tranquil and clear. There is a sense of freedom. This is as difficult to capture and maintain realistically as it is to capture a blob of the chemical mercury with tweezers. Freedom cannot be imprisoned in boxes. When we attempt to do so, freedom morphs into opinions and beliefs.
Our mental and physical senses operate within very limited parameters. We cannot see as sharply as a blue jay, we cannot hear better than a house cat. We cannot calculate mathematical equations more quickly than a computer. We invent devices to enhance our senses, but they are limited by our understanding of technology. It seems as if there will always be frontiers. Regardless of how much we learn and analyze, there will probably always exist the unknown.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the Belgian Surrealist artist, René Magritte. “The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.”