Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: The power to change convention

I intend to do two posts about change, and today's post is about the power of nature to change something in a way that defies logic, convention, and training.

There is little in this world that cannot be changed given the presence of a source powerful enough to change it.  I present as evidence the Tien Shan mountains of which you have already seen numerous pictures.  These mountains lie to the south of Almaty.  If you were to ask me (or anyone else in the city to point south, we would all point at the mountains.  One can see them from almost every corner and landmark in the city.  When we wake up, we see the mountains, as we go to work, we see the mountains.  In fact, the only time you don't see these mountains is if you are facing due north.  They are the basis for all directions (go up, or go down), and they are the backdrop against which we all frame our internal maps.

 This natural focal point only becomes a problem when it is pitted against the conventions of map making.  When I think of the streets and landmarks of Almaty, in my mind I am looking towards the mountains.  I cannot even imagine the city without the mountains.  If you hand me a map with south at the bottom, however, you demand that I attempt to picture the city with my back to the mountains.  If you saw these mountains you would understand why this is so difficult to imagine your back to them.   The result is that most standard maps are almost incomprehensible.   So how to read a map?  Some of us resort to turning the map upside down.  but recently I have spotted several maps printed with the mountains (actual pictures of the range) at the top.  Some are at bus stops and one was even in a store.

So while defying the convention of placing North at the top of a map may seem silly to those who have not experienced this geographic phenomena.  It makes perfect sense to those of us whose perspectives have been changed by the power of the Tien Shan.

1 comment:

  1. P.S. When it rains in Almaty, it snows in the mountains - even in the summer.