It's the birthday of Gerardus Mercator, born in Rupelmonde, Flanders (now Belgium), in 1512. He developed the world-mapping technique that we still use today and call the "Mercator projection." He developed a method to accurately project the globe onto a flat surface so that longitude and latitude lines would always be at right angles to each other.
When he first published his world map in 1569, it revolutionized navigation. For the first time, sailors could plot a route between any two destinations in the world using a straight line, and then follow that route without having to adjust their compasses.
To project the globe onto a flat surface, Mercator straightened the vertical lines of longitude into parallel lines, and he added space between the horizontal lines of latitude. This distorted the distance at the North and South Poles, which is why Greenland and Antarctica appear so large on flat world maps. The Mercator projection soon became the authoritative world map. Mercator was also the first person to use the word "atlas" to refer to a book of maps.
I get these "bits" off Garrison Keillor's amazing blog sent to me each morning for my perusal. Included is always a poem.
I highly recommend his blog called "Writer's Almanac" and if you want you can hit "listen" and he'll read it to you in his wonderful drawling voice. (I rarely do this). But it's a shame because he's fun to listen to. Why am I in such a hurry?
Anyway he picks and chooses bits that "happened on this day" in history. And there is almost always at least one that fascinates me.
For one thing knowing now that Gerardus Mercator even existed is a new piece of knowledge for me. I'll bet you never heard of him either, right? And think what an amazing thing he figured out and how it changed everything. One man, one bit of genius shared, one world changed. Sounds almost like a prayer, right. I feel like saying "amen".
Even saying the name of the place he was born is magical…who knew about Rupelmonde, Flanders? And because I am an American and I think my country is the center of the world and everyone is like me, this sounds mysterious and and exotic. Bringing to mind how traveling to other countries helps to de-mystify that concept. But I digress.
I think my original point in commenting on Mercator is that I was again wowed by the concept that each of us is so unique and that we must not hide our creative lives because there is only one of us and it will be lost to the world ... our contribution however small or large if we hide it.
Brings to mind Martha Graham's now famous thoughts about this….
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."
So despite the inspiration not always working out (see graphics above) we must always try…not give up. I probably won't invent a new word like Gerardus did but I will affect the world in some way. Even if it's just through my offspring or because one of my painting might show up on Antiques Roadshow and bring the owner some amazing amount of $.
Before me lies another precious day to amaze the world.
Off we go then…carry on.