Worth Watching: A Living Map

by | Jan 29, 2013 | Uncategorized

What we are looking at is a map made up of single dots representing every man, woman and child listed on the two most recent North American censuses:

Census Bitmap 2

Screenshot from http://bmander.com/dotmap/index.html

My cousin said she thought it was a photo-negative of North America taken from space at night. I thought it looked like some gnostic rendition of Ignatius’ meditation on the Trinity. Maybe in my imagination, conflating things like it does, it is a bit of both. The lights of single souls are trapped in murky shapes, the accumulated mass of which make up the bare outlines of earthly existence. Each of us occupies a space that is ours alone. Taken as a collective, our existence offers an outline of a nation.

I spent the first fifteen minutes seeking out the places I used to live, wondering if – somehow – I was represented. I saw the basic outline of the lake and marshlands I mucked in as a kid. I went back over the next couple of days to trace the major interstate arteries that took me to high school, brought me to visit relatives, and led me out on pilgrimages (religious and otherwise) across the country to both coasts. It is only appropriate that all of these borders, thoroughfares, markers of my earthly existence, be represented by people.

It is strange to think of all the souls that I do not know, living right now, defining the contours of other regions of space and time. Somehow, above it all, there is the One looking down, zooming in, and taking delight in specific instances of creation. It is good.



Paul Lickteig, SJ

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