Speech Bubbles: Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud

Roman Mars:
This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars, and this is Scott McCloud.

Scott McCloud:
My name is Scott McCloud. I’m a cartoonist and author, and I’ve been making comics for a few decades now, probably best known for nonfiction comics, especially a book called “Understanding Comics”, where I explain how comics work in comics form, but I’ve also done fiction work. I have a lot of different interests. I’m very easily distracted.

Roman Mars:
Scott’s book, “Understanding Comics”, which is 25 years old this year, is a seminal deconstruction of comics as an art form and mode of communication. A little cartoon-Scott jumps between panels of the 215 page book explaining how pictures and words in combination create a new language for telling stories and describing the world. The book was the culmination of a bunch of ideas that had been swirling around Scott’s head for years.

Scott McCloud:
Everybody knew or they thought they knew what comics were, and it was a very limiting idea. I see video games and other media dealing with the same problem today, maybe even podcasts, is that people have had this idea that comics were just four color, cheaply printed, cheaply made – comics about almost all superheroes, or funny animals – that they were disposable entertainment, that neither the writing nor the art was anything that was going to last or be significant. Even though I saw a lot of comics that conform to that definition, I mean there were certainly plenty of bad comics out there. To me, it was just an art form. It was an art form that was capable of so much more. I felt like the first step was wiping the slate clean and trying to approach it from almost a clinical value neutral sort of standpoint, where it’s just like, “Well, what are the essential elements?”

Scott McCloud:
The essential elements of comics are just putting one picture after another, and substituting space for time. You’re just saying that as you move from one space to the next, you’re moving from one moment to the next. That idea, to me, had just limitless applications, and it drew a boundary around a continent of possibilities that as far as I was concerned, we’d only just begun to explore.

Roman Mars:
When you wipe the slate clean and started with a new definition of comics, or at least a refined definition of comics, can you rattle it off the top of your head what the definition was from the book?

Scott McCloud:
Oh yeah. My mentor, Will Eisner, had used the term sequential art, and I said, “For the most part, 90% of the time you can just say sequential art, people get it.” But then, right away they’ll say things like, “Well, what about animation? That’s sequential art.” So, I had to come up with the longer definition that erased as many loopholes as possible. And what I came up with was juxtaposed pictorial and other images and deliberate sequence, which just for fun, I got to really narrow it down.

Roman Mars:
Just in case you didn’t fully absorb that definition. It’s juxtaposed, pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence.

Scott McCloud:
Some people thought that we had to stop calling them comics and start calling them juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequences. I said, “No, no, no. You do that once and then you go back to calling them comics.” People put a lot of value on labels, and a lot of folks, they get all up in arms and say, “Oh, they’re calling them graphic novels these days”. They’re putting on airs. And I’m like, “No, no, no, you can call it comics if you want.” I was just saying that, comics, we need to allow the word to take on new meanings, and every art form has different modes of dress, right? You can read about something in film comment, and then you can go to the academy of motion pictures to see the award ceremony.

Scott McCloud:
Then, you can go out and see a movie the next day. Now, you’re using these different words as different ways of illuminating the different functions, the different styles, the different modes that come out of that art form. But it’s okay, you can still call them movies, you can still call them comics.

Roman Mars:
What term do you like?

Scott McCloud:
I like comics because actually I think it’s fairly dry. I think that it’s been a long time since people thought that all comics had to be funny. When I was growing up, everybody assumed that all comics were muscle-bound guys in skin-tight suits beating the crap out of each other. So, we had already lost the original meaning and that rendered it just this dry little bundle of sticks, this little collection of phonemes that you could pretty much stuff any meaning into. Also, it’s quick, it’s short two syllables.

Roman Mars:
So, if I were to pick up a comic book, or turn to the comic section of the newspaper, are there certain things that you could teach me? Like how to decode comics in a certain way, that you could tell me like, “Well, the artist is trying to do this when they do this.” What are little take home facts about decoding a comic?

Scott McCloud:
Well, the first thing are the universals. That is if you’re looking at a comic strip, or a comic book, or a graphic novel, there are few things everybody has to do, whether they want to or not, these are the obligatory decisions that they all make. One of the first decisions they make is choosing their moments, no matter what, you’re breaking the world into moments. It’s a nontrivial problem as an engineer would say. I’m a son of an engineer. Because if you think about it, any kind of narrative that you want to tell can be broken down in an infinite number of ways. I could do a 10,000 panel graphic novel of me taking a spoonful of cereal from a bowl, right? And just lifting it up to my mouth.

Scott McCloud:
If you want, I could just break it down by microseconds, by nanoseconds, or I could do you a two panel sequence of the entire history of the universe. Big bang, heat death, you’re done. So, that means that you can slice it up any way you like. And yet, if I ask you, “Hey, what did you do yesterday?” There’s a part of your mind that immediately leverages this tremendous neural horsepower to deciding what matters. We have these wonderful saliency filters that choose the moments quite naturally, and most cartoonists choose them pretty naturally. They know once they have a story to tell, they know what moments matter, but they have to make that decision even if they’re not making it consciously. Then, from that point, you have to choose the angles, the framing.

Scott McCloud:
How close are you going to get to that thing you want to show? How far away are you going to be? What angle, is it going to be worm’s eye view, eagle’s view? Are you going to have to establish the scene by pulling it way back? And then, all those decisions about how you draw the things, how do you draw it so it’s recognizable? How do you draw it so it’s expressive? How do you draw it so that it’s visually interesting? How do you balance out dynamics versus clarity? All of these things. And then, of course, the mixture of words and pictures, and the way it flows, and it’s an endless series of decisions. But these are decisions we all make whether we do them consciously or not.

Roman Mars:
So, every medium has its strengths and weaknesses. In your mind, what are the best kind of ideas that comics are best at conveying and maybe what are some of the ideas that are hardest to convey in comics?

Scott McCloud:
When it comes to visual explanations, I found that comics are really good at the intro level. When you’re getting down to a really granular level, like for instance, if you wanted to use comics to explain the latest congressional budget bill, or something like that, that can be a problem because they’re time intensive. It takes a long time to put them together, and something like that is better in text. But if you wanted to explain particle physics, or some engineering principle, or something like that, something that’s going to stick around, it’s a wonderful entry to almost any subject. I’ve done a bunch of things like that. I recently did a comic explaining Kubernetes, this was for Google. It’s a way of orchestrating containerized applications.

Scott McCloud:
If that’s something you’re planning to do tomorrow, there’s a comic that’ll explain how to do that. But what I’m able to do is I’m able to lay out the map. I’m able to give you a sense that “Yeah, this is what the neighborhood looks like, this is how everything is interrelated. This is the shape of the subject.” Comics are really good at that. But the flip side of what comics are good at, it’s tricky because I’m always reluctant to say that the medium is inherently good at something, because that immediately beggars the question as you’ve already asked me, what’s it maybe not so good at? The thing is, whenever I think comics are not capable of something, somebody always proves me wrong.

Roman Mars:
What’s an example of that?

Scott McCloud:
Well, like hard math, some people have actually given it a run, where they’re using comics to explain mathematical concepts. Something that I thought would probably just be a nonstarter, and it turns out, “No, actually, you can give that a try.” Of course, when I began, it was all superheroes. It was all spectacle, it was all sensationalism. There were many people who felt that comics were inherently good at that. But pretty soon into my career, even before I began my career formally, I discovered Japanese comics, and they were doing comics about everything. There were fishing comics, there were mahjong comics, there were comics about romance, there are comics about ninjas. It didn’t matter. They could be about anything.

Scott McCloud:
But if you grew up in America, you might mistakenly think that the medium was somehow built, somehow inherently constructed in such a way that the love affair between comics and superheros were somehow inevitable. Just like in 1962, somebody could think that the love affair between movies and big spectacular musicals was inevitable. It wasn’t there, there was nothing that said that movies had to go in that direction. It’s just that’s just the cul-de-sac that they wound up with.

Roman Mars:
What I love to look at when it comes to sort of everyday objects that people are very familiar with is I like to look at them and recognize that they represent choices, and maybe they were choices so long ago that we forget that there are even choices. So, for example, I was thinking about the speech bubble in the comic book and realizing how odd that is if you really think about it.

Scott McCloud:
Yes.

Roman Mars:
Are there things like that that are these little revolutionary visual representations of things that you could sort of walk us through maybe who did them, when did this change? When did it go from being in the box to being in the bubble, like words? Anything about the evolution of comics that represent these revolutionary little punctuated equilibriums, but are so built into the way we perceive the world that we don’t even recognize them as choices.

Scott McCloud:
Well, I’m going to pull a 180 here and say that actually this is a good example of something that maybe is intrinsic to the medium, is kind of inevitable. When you do a symbol on one of those, usually the first evidence is that it happened early, and speech bubbles happen as early as certain European broadsheets, and they are speech bubbles. There’s no question about it. I could show you something from 1600, 1500, where they’re in the shape of scrolls, but they are dialogue coming out of people’s mouths. So, as soon as you start squaring off things into panel borders, which they were also doing in those days, those rectangular panel borders, yeah, you start to have that, you start to have speech bubbles.

Scott McCloud:
You can even see equivalent things in things like pre-Columbian picture manuscripts and some of the stuff. I think there’s some dialogue in the Bayeux Tapestry, so yeah, this was going to happen. No matter what, because dialogue, speech, it’s part of life, and anything that purports to represent life in any kind of artistic narrative medium, it’s going to have to account for that in some way, shape, or form. That said, I think it is what Will Eisner called a ‘desperation device’ in a sense that because we had a soundless medium for most of our history, we were kind of stuck and it does feel a little bit like a hack. I think there’s a little part of every cartoonist’s heart sinks a little that we have to use this shape.

Roman Mars:
It’s kind of like voiceover in movies.

Scott McCloud:
Yeah.

Roman Mars:
Yeah, it feels like a cheat. You should be able to show it and not tell it.

Scott McCloud:
It does. It feels like a cheat and I think that’s why I think when comics are silent, when you have these silent sequences, some cartoonists do nothing but silent comics, but most of us will do them occasionally. It feels more like pure comics. There’s that little purest gene in each of us that rebels a little when we can dispense with the words, which is good news for writers.

Roman Mars:
I love this term silent comics.

Scott McCloud:
Yeah.

Roman Mars:
It’s so strangely absurd, but it totally makes sense that it’s strange that you have this uni-media presentation that still feels so multimedia, that we think of it as having sound, and time, and a depth to it.

Scott McCloud:
Exactly. It’s very easy to forget that comics is relegated to just one of the five senses, traditionally. Of course, now that’s beginning to change a little bit with various mutations online and whatnot. But, but yeah, it’s strange because it really doesn’t feel that way. It does feel multimedia and, of course, that’s partially because many feel that it’s this agglomeration of words and pictures. Even though that tends to be true, I don’t think of that as the essential character of comics. I just think of that as one of comic’s options. But you can get some other comics scholar in here to argue with me there. But yeah, the evolution of those symbols though, word balloons are certainly the most visible.

Scott McCloud:
But the other ones I do find very interesting, I talk in Understanding Comics about, are things like sweat beads and how you can see the evolution of written language even in the pictorial symbols, and the fact that a sweat bead is a pictorial symbol that gradually drifted so that rather than a little sweat bead on cheek, you would see a sweat bead drawn beside a face. So, that it began to emanate from the face to the extent that it became a symbol that simply indicated the inner state. Now, you can find manga where robots will have sweat beads on them, and it’s simply a signifier of emotion.

Scott McCloud:
In a lot of ways, that drift is the exact same drift you had in many pictorial based written languages, especially in the far east where something would begin as simply a drawing of a chair or a drawing of a horse. And that over decades, or even centuries of writing, they would become more and more abstract. That’s exactly what’s happening in comics.

Roman Mars:
So, if you were to give a 25-year post understanding syllabus to the listeners of 99pi, what are the essential comics? Maybe, you know, that show a change in form or something, and kind of like what they are and just a little description of like what is this doing that is particularly remarkable to you?

Scott McCloud:
If I just had a few?

Roman Mars:
Yeah.

Scott McCloud:
I would probably start with Chris Ware’s “Building Stories”, which is a giant box of like a Milton Bradley game box, which has comics in a million different shapes, because that definitely sets the mind going. I would throw in a couple of crazy webcomics where you can go in any direction. I would have at least one silent comic from Jim Woodring. I would include “Persepolis”, because I think “Persepolis” really was a tuning fork for a lot that came after.

Roman Mars:
In what way? What do you mean a tuning fork?

Scott McCloud:
Well, in terms of voices, one of the beautiful things about comics is the way that comics can offer you a very intimate and credible voice from somebody who could just be making it up, but you know that they’re not. This is something that comics journalists Joe Sacco took advantage of. He would do things like spend months or even years in a place like Palestine or the Balkans, and he would talk to people, interview them, and then he would do these painstaking drawings of the area. And you realize as journalism, you could doubt everything he’s telling you, but you don’t. You know that a human hand took the time to make this, and with that labor intensive devotion came truth.

Scott McCloud:
There’s something very convincing about it. Even though, technically, it’s a lot easier to fake something in a drawing than in a photograph that you know that it’s true. That was true of “Persepolis”, too, is that Marjane Satrapi’s experiences in Iran during the revolution, and the war with Iraq, and coming to Europe, and all of these things. They just feel so credible, so personal, and they open a door to another experience. Movies can do that. Books can do that. But the contact with the paper, the notion that a human hand drew this, it makes it more intimate. It makes it that their entire world is seen through their lines and that’s really exciting.

Roman Mars:
Anything else in this syllabus that we could just throw in there?

Scott McCloud:
Oh, “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan, a wonderful book. It looks like a kid’s story book, sort of like a Chris Van Allsburg, beautifully illustrated silent story, which is a surrealistic meditation on what it’s like to be an immigrant in a strange new place. Shaun Tan moved from, I believe it was Malaysia to Australia, when he was just a kid. He really makes you understand what it is to go to such a new and alien place. He does it beautifully, but also it’s really terrific to approach comics without words, to pick something without words for your first encounter, because then you have to recognize the degree to which pictures are text, pictures are meaning. They’re not just illustrations, the pictures do the talking.

Roman Mars:
It’s still in popular culture because of all the Marvel movies and such that the superhero is a dominant form in comics. Is there something that you find that you enjoy in them? Or, is it something that’s lost to you at this point? What is your feeling about them right now?

Scott McCloud:
I’ve lost some of the joy that I had when I was first reading superhero comics, but I still … I like the medium. I think the medium has an important part to play in comics culture, but still I’m kind of happy that we’re becoming a little bit more like Japan. We’re starting to see more genres come in. One of the big revolutions now is in kid’s comics. In fact, the bestselling cartoonist in America now is Raina Telgemeier, who does comics for kids, and those comics don’t have any superheroes in them. Her biggest one was Smile, which was just about when she was a kid and she lost two of her front teeth and had to have reconstructive surgery. That’s all it is, but it’s just fantastic stuff.

Scott McCloud:
We’re seeing much more diversity. I just got a wonderful crowd-funded book called “Bingo Love”, which is just about two women of color who fall in love as kids in a bingo parlor, and both of their families just don’t approve, they don’t really get together until they’re old. It’s a far cry from the “Amazing Spiderman”, but some of the things we love the most about Spiderman, I got to say, were just the small moments, the everyday moments, the real moments. So, maybe there was a seed of that even in those days.

Roman Mars:
I know you’re interested in graphic communication in the world at large beyond comics, but how did “Understanding Comics” and all of the thoughts you put into this as a study, change the way you decode graphics in the world at large? Like what is something that you could point to as an example of that ties to this medium that you could help people like decode as they’re walking through a city?

Scott McCloud:
Well, let’s look at fire safety signs. Oh, my God, this drives me crazy. There’s a really classic little messed up fire safety graphic. You’ll see it all around the country, often on the inside of hotel room doors, which is, it’s got two different little flames. It’s got this little tiny elevator. And then, it’s got this very big guy who’s going right to left down the stairs towards the flame and about to trip over the elevator.

Scott McCloud:
So, all they did was they found the symbols and they filled the available space with the symbols. It didn’t even occur to them that the way the guy was facing, or the relative size of the guy and the flames, the guy’s much bigger than the flames. The flames don’t look particularly threatening, and why are there two of them? All of these things, they didn’t consider it at all, because they weren’t thinking that maybe every visual decision has consequences. Every visual decision has collateral meaning. So, I started remixing these things and turning the guy around and changing the size relationships, and changing the proximity, and making sure that each individual element had its own space to breathe.

Scott McCloud:
I was able to come up with three different alternatives that I think worked better than I’m … I’ll probably go on a crusade to fire departments around the country. But, now, I see these things everywhere. Maps for example, 90 degree rotation is hard. Mental 90 degree rotation is very hard, and it actually upsets me when I see floor plans telling you how to get out of your burning building, and they’re rotated. They’re not in the same orientation as the way that you’re standing because they have one map orientation for the whole buildings, it’s the only map they print, right?

Scott McCloud:
But your building is on fire, you’re going to die any minute now and you’ve got to stand there and kind of just sort of imagine if you were facing the other way and you return this way and wait, which hallway is that? And there are these two… No, it should be clear as day. Here’s the thing, I think that good visual communication should speak and be silent. And what I mean by that is that there are many kinds of visual communication that they’re clear enough. You can figure it out, that is you can piece it together, but they still kind of mumble as they walk away. Like the bike paths sign, all it is, the bike paths signs, they’re everywhere, right? It’s just a picture of a bicycle.

Roman Mars:
Yeah.

Scott McCloud:
Then, the word bike and path underneath the bicycle, and often times the word bike and path are separated, and there’s more space between bike and path than there is between the words bike and path and the wheels of the bicycle. Nobody will be confused by this. Everyone on earth knows that if they can read English, they know that says bike path. They know what it means. But I say it’s still a pox on every damn one of them because what it does is it violates the rules of proximity so that it’s like … The words bike and path are married. They’re a couple, and there is infidelity going on there because they’re flirting with the wheels. They’re creating this visual grouping of wheel and word that’s completely irrelevant to the message.

Scott McCloud:
Nobody will be confused by this. Ivy, my wife, just tells me, “Let it go, let it go. It’s fine. They needed room for the little bolt to go in. That’s all it is. They were just making room for the bolt, Scott. Just let it go.” But I am telling you, instead of just saying bike path like it was supposed to, it’s saying bike path (mumbles), like that, and you’re like, “Wait, what did you say?” And I said, “I said bike path.” It’s like, “No, no, no. After bike path. What did you say?” “I didn’t say anything. I just said bike path (mumbles). “There you did it again. You said, (mumbles), what the hell was that?” It’s like it’s giving off irrelevant visual information, and I see it everywhere and it’s driving me nuts.

Roman Mars:
Is there an analog in comics where you feel like there has to be a type of precision in the presentation of the narrative, or do you allow for a little bit more mumbling?

Scott McCloud:
That’s a good question because I think in comics people embrace the mumbling. People embrace the imperfections. In the cartoonist line, they actually fall in love with the things that make a cartoonist a little clumsy, a little crowded, a little strange, because those are the things that only they do. Certainly, there are craftsmen in comics who know just how to make it sing and compose it with great precision and orchestrate the lines so that there is no mumbling, so that there is no noise, and I love them, too. But the imperfections, I think, are part of what people are drawn to in my medium.

Scott McCloud:
It is an imperfect medium because it is the creation of an imperfect species, and the idiosyncrasies of cartoonists like, say Robert Crumb or Charles Schulz. These are the things that, I don’t know, I think people come to embrace.

Comments (19)

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  1. Bill

    I came here hoping to find a picture of that BIKE PATH sign that gets discussed in the episode.

  2. John

    Scott needs his own podcast. This was a great episode — and then in the ‘afterword’ where he was discussing his daughter and how her condition changes the way she perceives the world, that turned it into an awesome episode.
    You get the feeling Scott could discuss anything and make it exciting and understandable. More please!

    1. Chris

      I came here to say the same thing. He could tell me what he had for lunch and I bet it would be captivating.
      I’m going to read his book now, he seemed so interesting.

  3. Francesco

    Just saw the roving exhibition Manga Hokusai Manga. This had a couple of panels on ‘speech bubbles ‘ in Tokugawa Era illustrations. The equivalent of a speech bubble ( which emerges from the neck ) contains an illustration of the mental state of the protagonist. Perhaps the dream they are having or an action they wish to accomplish. Any spoken words are written arbitrarily anywhere on the page.

  4. Isabella

    I don’t understand what he’s complaining about the bike path. He didn’t describe the problem very well, and I don’t understand the mumbling metaphor. I came here looking for a picture.

    1. duff

      I don’t get it, either, and his mumble part. That is the only reason I came to this website, which didn’t help me understand. Maybe because I’m so used to seeing that type of bike path sign? I agree with his spouse who told him to just drop it! Also, too, it’s not easy to talk about visual problems in an audio medium.

    2. Ed

      It’s about the way we interpret images. When things are close to eachother we group them, you see this in text as well: letters that are grouped from words or sentences grouped to form paragraphs.

      the thing with the bike path is that the words “bike” and “path” are farther away from eachother than the words are away from the wheels. Visually the words are more associated with the wheels than with eachother, even though you know the words should be associated with eachother and not with the wheels. It’s like the visual equivalent of mumbling some thing after a sentence. There’s something extra that you wouldn’t really expect or that shouldnt be there.

  5. Stuart Yurczyk

    Roman,

    Such a cool episode! I’m not a big comic guy, but I still read them occasionally. Thinking beyond the classic superhero comic is really interesting to me. Although it’s constructed in a way not too different from this superhero style, I wanted to tip you off in regards to the menus at The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog (two year winner of best bar in the world); their menus are formatted in the form of a comic book, or at least there are menu pages scattered throughout the comic. The comic itself tells a story of the “Dead Rabbit” itself, and the characters are actually stylized depictions of the bartenders–or at least they looked extremely similar to the bartenders I saw in front of me.

    Anyway, just a really unique way of expressing their identity as an NYC institution. Also, I’m a HUGE cocktail nerd–if that’s even a thing. 🤓

    A link to their current menu (Issue 4) sans comics:
    https://www.deadrabbitnyc.com/retribution

    A link to their shop where you can buy the comic:
    https://www.deadrabbitnyc.com/shop-online/the-mixed-drinks-menu-4th-edition-issue-4

    A link to their awards page:
    https://www.deadrabbitnyc.com/awards-press/

    Cheers!
    Stuart

  6. Andrew Sleeth

    I’m not a visual artist, have never bought a single comic book and only two graphic novels, but I find stories like this one utterly riveting. Plus, it’s one of those occasional 99PI interviews that just cracks me up. Scott’s blunt-force critiques of bike path signage and building evacuation maps made my day.

    Thanks, Roman. You and the 99PI team do great work.

  7. Allison

    I might be the only one that found this episode supremely boring. I listen to all the episodes. Where’s the story? I don’t get any of the energy from this episode that one would get from a comic, or from the folks at comic con. A medium that relies on pictures and few words– would have been nice to get the same experience from the episode itself.

  8. Jasen Cummings

    This Bike Path murrr-murr-murr is now one of my favorite 99PI moments. People love a good rant about visual design. I envision a pin and or T-shirt.

  9. superaleja

    I’m a relatively new listener (finally getting into podcasts in general), enjoying the quality of 99 PI quite a bit.

    But I’m surprised that you don’t have transcripts available for any of the episodes. They’re scripted, so the text must be available somewhere.

    Yes, it’s an auditory medium, but transcripts increase access to a lot of listeners, including Deaf/HoH people, those with lower language proficiency, and many others. Several lower production level podcasts make them available.

    I hope you do soon, too, so I can share them widely, as I’d like to.

  10. Jennefer

    Now I notice all the wack signs around town! Yesterday we went for a walk on a river trail…the map at the trail head was oriented 180 degree wrong, so annoying!

  11. Catherine Powell

    Check out this beautiful graphic novel by Giacomo Patri from the Great Depression about white collar workers needing to organize (it’s a “silent comic” – there are no words). In addition to “White Collar” Patri did many wonderful illustrated pamphlets for unions that often used a classic comic book style to tell stories about the history of labor. Several of these pamphlets are being digitized and will soon be available online from the Labor Archives and Research Center at SFSU.

    White Collar, a graphic novel by Giacomo Patri
    http://digital-collections.library.sfsu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16737coll1/id/386/rec/1

  12. Bffnnn

    In the podcast there was a comment about how fire escape maps, floor plans, which are often oriented with north at top, would instead be clearer if oriented the way you are facing. But for me, I can only understand a map if it’s oriented north. Because then I can fit that map into my map of the world.

    For example, one time a friend looked up directions on his phone and handed the phone to me. I was totally lost until I changed the map orientation to north. Then it was clear. I needed to go “over there”, and no longer needed directions. The map was in my head.

    There are different ways to navigate the world. You can be told where to go or find your own path.

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