Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Maps to Buried Treasure's Homes

At an earlier time in your reading history, nothing could interest you as much as a treasure map. The merest hint of one had you gripping the pages as though the prize might sneak past you. When such luxuries as Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island brought a map directly into the foreground, where you could already visualize the site where the treasure was buried, you were impatient to get on with the digging. This love of treasure maps, buried treasure, and the quest for some cache, hidden away for later use, had less to do with money than with curiosity for what was to come next. Young as you were, you had already learned that treasures, particularly buried ones, were likely to contain surprises, often pleasing ones but just as likely some reminder that what needs to be hidden often contains some artifact which has information you would rather not know.

Treasure maps are thus not content with the role they have been assigned; they have ambitions of becoming a metaphor. just as a comedian nurtures ambitions of portraying such tragedies as Hamlet or Macbeth and the tragedian in turn wishes to portray the comic. Dig here, the map and the metaphor proclaim. Dig far enough down and you will likely discover riches that others before you wanted to preserve beyond discovery. These riches were often ill-gotten, embodying a theoretical if not actual curse on anyone who finds it, said curse being delivered on behalf of those from whom the treasure was wrested.

Treasure stands not only for wealth but power and of course power is the next best thing to knowledge and understanding. With power seductions may be set under way, which often have consequences of betrayal, revenge, and outright deception. With enough treasure, so the logic goes, one can purchase knowledge, even understanding.

Some psychologists and philosophers liken a boy's interest in buried treasure to the growing awareness of sexuality, particularly as exemplified by the ability to achieve and maintain an erection, generally thought to be one of the ingredients necessary to partake of sexual activity. Such theories go some way toward demonstrating how a young boy would see that metaphoric connection as, indeed, many a young girl would arrive at an awareness that she was a metaphoric site of a buried treasure, one she might cheerfully assist some explorer in discovering.

Discovery is the goal of the treasure map; with some particular end in mind, many a searcher for treasure has no further thought of the consequences. Continuing with the sexual metaphor, one consequence of having discovered the buried treasure and, so to speak, unearthed it, is the so-called post-coital sadness the sense of sadness-bordering-on-loneliness after the experience. The sense of having been away from, even separated from one's self for a time. This opens the door to questions about sexual activity as a vacation from reality and/or one's self. Another possible discovery is that with the proper person, there was no post-coital sadness, on the contrary an enhanced sense of participation in something larger.

Even though sex has irrevocably reared its head, butted its way into your life, crashed the party as it were,indeed been a frat-boy catalyst to some of your behavior, it has not removed your fondness for the treasure map nor the discoveries and revelations that might appear when the treasure is located and then opened. The surprise that awaits is for your taste the driving force behind fiction, even the kinds of fiction in which the treasure is either a man or a woman for a male or female protagonist or the reverse.
Discovery awaits us at every turn, discovery that an anticipated thing is unspeakably better than what was anticipated or unspeakably more dreadful than could have possibly been imagined.

Discovery, you see, is like reality; it exists on its own terms, regardless of what you think or feel. You may have been programmed in some way to anticipate a certain consequence from a trail of digging for a particular treasure, but reality has its own notions about whether you should even find it. Discovery belongs in every story. Reality belongs to some extent in every story.

You, in your own way, have chosen to go forth, a step or two up in class from the good Mr. Chaucer's Pardoner, attempting to sell or otherwise barter treasure maps to a segment of the public. You have come a long way in six hundred years, but you still have steps you can take. There is this map burning a hole in your metaphorical pocket.

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