I reckon myself to be a sufficiently competent map-reader to find routes that are interesting and scenic rather than merely obvious. Today I have mapped out a lecture with a track that is far from direct or main-road: I am going to wander and diverge to various look-out points and hidden spots along the way. I hope that, nonetheless, it will become clear that it has an itinerary and a destination.
‘Life is a journey from the cradle to the grave.’ When we want to piece together some theme in the story of our life, we try to establish some time-markers, and we tend to string these along a kind of path or route. And we often pinpoint places in counterpoint with the time. This modelling of life as a road is a ‘metaphor we live by’, to borrow an apt phrase from cognitive studies; and the ancient Greeks often used this metaphor as well. The prime itinerary of our social and inner life would probably be constructed from our rites de passage, our close relationships, our inspirations; and very often we trace these through places as well. I was asked recently to write a very brief intellectual autobiography (so far), and I found that I was plotting it through locations: Epidauros, Oxford, the South Bank in London, Delphi, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles … And the same would be no less applicable to the story of my personal life, with some key places in common - Delphi, for instance.