From tweet to blog to link, I came across an article that has me remembering a moment that my mother found rather amusing. I was in one of the first few grades and had come home with a worksheet of a basic map with questions about where items were in the given picture. In my younger years I had a tendency to skip details that appeared extraneous so when the first question asked which direction Susie needed to go to get to the wagon I became confused. We'd been shown the compass rose in class, so that wasn't my problem. What was my problem was that no matter which way I turned my body to face wherever north was, the page had to turn with me, so that meant Susie's directions could be any which way. When I explained this problem to my mother, she had quite the laugh and pointed out the rose on the map - that was how to know in which direction things were. No turning required.
Fast forward to tonight, and this article addresses the confusion of directions when comparing standard western interpretations with those of meso-american. Whereas we pinpoint the absolute directions and then qualify the degrees between, many of these cultures mainly focus on the east-west direction as marked by the path of the sun. If anyone has actually paid attention to basic astronomy (completely different from astrology), then you will realize that the sun doesn't actually follow the exact same path throughout the year. According to the author's diagram, there is about a 50º variation in the east and west ranges, with the north and south filling in the left-over spaces. Many of these cultures find 'north' and 'south' so inconsequential that they don't even have direct translations for them. Ultimately, this means that at any given time of year, our ideas of the cardinal directions could actually vary greatly from those documented in various translations. (For Mormons, this could do much to illuminate directionality in the Book of Mormon.)
Such thoughts led me to two reflection points.
First, (the non-religious one) this should be yet another indicator of an issue I have posted on before this. When more than a single entity interacts, there will be different viewpoints and perspectives. If we enter that arena assuming all parties must see, understand, relate to all things as we do, we are setting ourselves up for failure. For a true meeting of minds and hearts to occur, there must be a common ground and this requires a willingness to consider, to see from, the other's perspective. If each party truly does this, then a true dialog can be entered into, whereas without - you tread into a minefield waiting to explode. This will require that the ego be set aside knowing that the world does not actually revolve around your particular world-view. This seems to be harder for some than others, but it critical in efforts to achieve compromise and therefore unity in whatever the endeavor.
Secondly, the article pointed out that it was not uncommon for many of the ancient cultures to determine, like the child me, that north must be whichever way you are facing, whichever way you decide it to be. Egypt chose to see north as the direction from which the Nile came to them. And the Hebrews, who also oriented themselves by facing the rising sun, denoted that direction as forward and west as behind, with north and south and left and right. This made me think of the scripture in one of my earliest posts:
Isaiah 52:12As light is a metaphor of the Savior and the sun is the great source of physical light in our eyes, then facing the sun(Son) clearly places His path as 'going before you' and ultimately guarding 'your rearward'. This requires you to put Him in the forefront of your life, however, as the guiding point as you choose your directions. Much as King Benjamin's people placed their tents that they might face the temple (Mosiah 2:6), or how Lot was warned to keep his face turned from Sodom (Genesis 19:17) while he fled, where we focus our attention will dictate our direction. Isaiah's verse shows us, however, that so long as we focus on the Savior and make Him our guiding star (don't forget that the sun is actually a star...) he will take care of the past behind us. If we choose to live in our past, our future will be lost, just as Lot's wife discovered. [Do you know how often the scriptures augment my sodium cravings?] So long as our path is straight, we have promise of His protection.
For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rearward.