Thursday, June 5, 2008

The map is not the territory

World MapThis incident took place two days ago on Tuesday's evening…

My side of the story:

"Members had swamped the entire exercise studio for BodyCombat class. There wasn't much space left for them to move freely actually. As this studio had no platform or stage for instructor to stand on, the distance between the members at the central front row and myself was less than one meter. I knew that all of us would have very limited space to move around when the class starts. I asked if there is any first timer to the program. A lady to my left put up her hand. I asked again and saw no more hand putting up. After doing a brief introduction, the class was started.

Halfway through the warmup, I noticed a guy who stood at the central last row. He appeared excited with the moves, but had not been doing the moves quite right. Apparently, he must be a first timer to the program. I was wondering why he didn't raise his hand when I asked about it just now. So I looked at him and tried to show him the moves. He looked at me, but showed no response. I looked at him again and talked to him directly for him to follow my moves and direction. This time, he just smiled but changed nothing. Worried that he might hurt himself, and possibly others, by not doing things safely, I wanted to get to him to show him the moves. But the class was sardine packed, I just continued the class and hoped that he would change later.

Then came track 2, then track 3, but he was still not following well. He was either standing with the wrong combat stance, or performing moves much slower than others. I tried several times looking into his eyes to catch his attention. He looked at me, smiled again, but not following. Since I couldn't get close to him, I planned to stand next to him at track 5 when we would be doing a split-room track. I would be able to lead him by then.

Halfway through track 4, he left the class. I saw him walking out, and felt bad for not doing my part to keep him. I must not have been doing good to keep a new comer to the program. He must have felt frustrated and disappointed..."

His side of the story:

"I was excited to join the class. The room was flooded with people, but I was still able to get a spot in the central back row where I could see the instructor easily. I saw the instructor started talking. I guessed he must have said something funny, because I saw other people laughed. I hoped I understood what he was saying. After awhile, the instructor started moving, and other people in the room also moved with him, so I followed too. I saw the instructor doing some punches, other people also punched together with him, and so I punched too. I saw people punching at almost the same time as the instructor and could follow easily, I guessed they must have known the moves very well.

Minutes later, the instructor must be trying to say something to me, or trying to show me something, because I saw him looking at me directly and lifted his hands for something. I didn't understand what he was trying to do. Maybe he was welcoming me to the class, so I smiled to him in return. He looked at me eyes to eyes a few times, each time trying for something. I wished I knew what he wanted.

The room was getting warm and stuffy and everybody was sweating heavily. I couldn't catch my breath. I had not been doing this kind of exercise before. Not sure how long would this class take, but I knew I had to leave to get rest. When I walked out, I saw the instructor looked at me again. I wanted to let him know I had reached my maximum efforts. But I knew I couldn't, because I'm both mute and deaf..."


My heart sank and broke, and my body shivered when he "told" me that he is both mute and deaf. I felt so terribly guilty and sorry. I sincerely hoped I had done something better for him during the class. Eugene Lim, you mindless fool! Shame on you! Should have banged your head to the wall!!

(When the class ended and I was on my way out, I saw him standing outside the studio. I walked to him to check if he was alright. He moved his arms, lifting one of his hands to his mouth signaling he can't talk, and pointed both hands to his ears signaling he can't hear! He told me that he left the class because it was very hot in the studio and he couldn't breathe well. I suggested to him that next time he can stand next to the entrance to the studio, as the doors are open and thus better ventilation. We shook hands and I patted him on his shoulders for his courage. I wasn't sure if he got my message. I wanted to apologize to him too for my ignorance and not being tactful in class. I wished I knew how to express it...)

The map is not the territory

Our ability to interact with the external world is greatly influenced by our very restricted knowledge on the subject matter in our inner world. We give judgments based on our personal experience. Therefore, no two people ever have exactly the same map, or view, of any part of the external world. Everyone has their own personal views of the world, their own 'maps of reality.' Given the same piece of information, everyone has their own interpretation and understanding.

We need maps to guide us through unknown territory, but we must also be aware that even the best map is only a very rough guide to the landscape it represents:
  • A Word IS NOT the THING it describes
  • A Map IS NOT the PLACE it depicts
  • A Symbol IS NOT the THING it represents
The truth is that our knowledge, on any subject we care to name, will always be incomplete. Likewise, no matter how much care and thought we give it, we can never be totally accurate in our description of any person, thing, event or whatever.
  • Whatever we do or say, it is certain that we will be misunderstood - to some degree.
  • Whatever we see or hear, it is certain that we will misunderstand it - to some degree.
  • We can never eliminate misunderstandings - but this should not deter us from striving to minimize them.
As children we learn how to construct mental maps as a means of making sense of the bewildering array of experience that we are going though. As we grow into adulthood, some people make as few new maps as they can. Some people pretend to make fresh maps, although they are really only transcribing their existing maps. And a few people make new maps all through their lives, both for the fun of it, and because they regularly seek out new experiences to learn from.

There are at least three major reasons why a regular supply of new maps is desirable:
  1. Maps are always based on limited view of external reality, which is itself in a constant process of change.
  2. The longer we use any particular map, the harder it becomes to recognize its shortcomings.
  3. The more familiar a map becomes, the harder it is to accept the validity of anybody else's map of the same 'territory.'
Since every map is necessarily incomplete, whenever we create a new map we are forced to be selective about the information we include, a result usually arrived at by evaluating current information in the light of maps we have already prepared.

In a nutshell:

Things are not necessarily what it seems or appears, as map is not the actual territory of the reality. Upon encountering a situation, for instance, when talking to somebody, maybe we should ask what assumptions is each of us making? Are those assumptions justified? What do these assumptions tell us about the other party's mental maps? What could we say to each other that would help each other to get a better understanding of each party's points of view?

Everyone of us is different, as no one shares the same experience for everything. As the map is not the territory it depicts,
misunderstandings can be minimized by acknowledging our shortcomings.

(Words Count:
Approximately 1,438)


i belong to me said...'s abit sad to read this story...

people are innate gift from god, everyone of us are totally different from each other, we have our own unique ability, weaknesses, strengths, personalities and experiences...

so, speechless but just so say that we should appreciate what we have now rather than expecting more than that!

.with sincerity.

BigEyes said...

Hi eugene,
A very touching sharing. I won't know the instructors in Fitness First are actually ''looking'' at our step and mistakes until i joined your class.

you are so great!my first impression to you is
why a Ah Seng can become instructor?

haha...sorry to say that because u were wearing a red shirt with some kind of DRAGON

Anyway your humorous and the way u conduct the class has greatly encourage me, this useless hippo's heavy legs to move.
And everytime your class, i'm trying very hard& rush back from work like SIAO KIA to make myself available.

Thank you and well done!

swee said...

Is he a member from Maxis? :)

I had him in my class couple of times too... I was certainly touched when I knew that he is both mute and deaf.. my heart shivered.. and I am proud... Not on myself but him. His efforts and determination to live a normal life as anyone of us does.

|| Eugene Lim || said...

Hi Swee,

Yeah, he was in Maxis. Didn't see him anymore thereafter. Hope he is doing fine.