Visual reflections of reality, or maps, are not strangers to mankind. The astronomers use them to identify the constellations of the night sky and sailors have maps to navigate themselves through the seven seas. Sly politicians use them to manipulate electoral districts, architects design baseball stadiums with them, while some of us (like me) utilize maps to find the quickest route to the local CVS Pharmacy. Maps appear in our day-to-day routine and some may encompass wider concepts. But how can someone use a map to exhibit one aspect of their “individual existence”? This is what I discovered this past week in my Theory of Knowledge class when I became a cartographer and created my own geography in the form of a self-portrait (which is pictured above).
I chose to paint myself as a continent with land monuments that represent vulnerable parts of my personality. At the top of the picture, my hair flows in the shape of a wave like how it does in real life. The wildness and density of it prompted me to nickname this part of me as the “Sea of Hopes and Dreams” because I have many aspirations in life which have carried me in many directions. For example, I once considered becoming a psychologist for people who have survived traumatic experiences and then I convinced myself that I’d rather be a modern language teacher, and now, I’ve decided to pursue a career in International Affairs. Like the ocean, my dreams are constantly changing but I have the power to choose my final destination.
The split on the left side alludes to the underground city below Paris, otherwise known as Lutetia, which was built by the Romans in 200 A.D. I chose this to symbolize the personality I had when I was a child: highly optimistic, outgoing, and confident. I still carry these traits in me. Yet with time, I grew accustomed to being a teenager in today’s world. I believe I’ve had to bury the joyful spirit of young Andrew after recognizing how harsh reality can be…
My two eyes are replaced with the map symbol for a roundabout. The left is known as the “eye of fear” while the right is the “eye of wonder”; both are instruments on how I internalize knowledge. I have a curiosity for the things I cannot explain or understand, which encourages me to search for an answer, but I am simultaneously stuck with fear of the unknown. Sometimes, I’m scared thinking what the answer would be and how I will have no choice but to accept it. I believe in Christianity as well as I acknowledge that there may not be a life after this one but my inevitable death terrifies me.
I used color mapping to pinpoint the places on my cheeks, or “fields of embarrassment”, where I blush the most when I’m embarrassed or I think I said something stupid in class. One of the problems I face as a student is talking in front of people, particularly the intelligent kids who are in the I.B. program with me. Even though I enjoy expressing myself, I am anxious of how others perceive me and if I’m approved by their standards. Whenever I stutter or can’t find the right words to say, I blush a lot and end up thinking about that situation for weeks and weeks until those weeks become years.
The “effects of perfectionism” are expressed through the bags under my eyes, showing how my personality can impact my physical state. I have an unending yearning for things to be ideal and with school projects, I often sacrifice things like my sleep to satisfy my perfectionist nature. There are two dots on my face, however, which I labeled to reflect my Italian heritage, and thus, my family’s cultural background of the Mediterranean. This is important to me as it has bestowed upon me a sense of identity and place in the world.
Lastly, the “border of introversion” surrounds my main continent at a distance. This is a visual representation of my relationship with others and my environment. Even though I’ve been gifted with loving friends and family members, I don’t think anyone has gotten so close to know me completely and authentically. Maybe that will change with time or maybe I will always have an introverted side for protection and independence.
There were several “personal geographies” from my classmates in Mr. Brewer’s TOK that I thought were counter intuitive and definitely embodied the spirit of our lesson: critically thinking about the potential for maps to reflect and create reality. Kamiya Wyatt’s “Heart Map”, in particular, made me smile but it was something new and interesting for me to analyze. She created a Pangea of the things she holds in her heart, such as “family”, “friends”, “God”, and “education”. I loved how all are connected through a network of streams and bodies of water, showing that Kamiya’s principles relate to each other. She used the sizes of the islands to symbolize how much she let them impact her- something I didn’t think of when creating my self-portrait. Ours contrasted differently but I think both shared the basic structures of our personalities which were demonstrated in a compelling way.