The phrase describes the prospect facing a teenager as they enter their twenties. Up to that point it is normal that oneâ€™s life is â€œmapped outâ€ by parents and circumstances not of their making. But from then on â€“ at least this is the ideal, an ideal not available to millions â€“ they choose what they are going to do. It is truly beautiful when you see a person set out to pursue their dream. It involves sweat and tears, failures and frustrations, but eventually that person comes through and discovers their metier, their trade or true profession â€“ something that fits seamlessly with their gifts. We know of countless artists and writers for whom this is evident. But it is also true of people in â€˜humbleâ€™ professions. I was much struck by a bus conductor once on a regular route who used to make the ride a pleasure. He knew some of the passengers and asked about their families and went out of his way to help people who were strangers. It was all done light-heartedly and engagingly.
The ancient Jews were given â€œmapsâ€, fairly detailed ones, and were exhorted to follow them; â€œNow, Israel, take note of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them â€¦ You must add nothing to what I command you and take nothing from it.â€ Israel was a child and a teenager until the coming of the Messiah. When Jesus did come he saw how stuck they had become in the laws and customs and were refusing to grow up. â€œThis people honours me only with lip- service, while their hearts are far from me,â€ he said.
This may all seem very obvious but it is an attitude that is alive and well today. People are afraid to act if it goes against what is expected. They have an idea what they want to do but to do it is too risky. The possible results are too scary. So they just â€œsit on their handsâ€ and wait. And meanwhile nothing happens.
In 2014, at the Golden Jubilee for Silveira House, a development training centre in Zimbabwe, one of the veterans of the Centre, Christopher Kabasa, told us how the founder, Fr John Dove, said to him in the 1960s, â€œChris, the people of Rota, Mangwende, want an agricultural co-operative. Can you go and help them start one?â€ Chris protested that he knew little of farming and nothing of co-operatives. Fr Dove brushed these objections aside saying, â€œPlease go, Chris! I am sure you will manage.â€ And he did.
The Chinese have a saying, â€œA journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.â€ To which we can add, â€œMaps or no maps!â€
Journey without Maps is the title of a book in which Graham Greene described a journey he made into the interior of West Africa at a time before the countries were not yet properly charted.