Defining the Mudmap

A mud map is the map a farmer draws on the ground for a passing traveller. It is rough and ready, not very detailed, and lacks nuance. The scale may be inaccurate. But the map has on it the details needed for the journey.

Imagine 6 boys of 16 and 17 out bushwalking in the Flinders Ranges. The old map they have with them is not adequate for the task. They are bushed. This is a picture of men today. The old maps for living are no longer up to the task.

So the boys squat and draw on the ground, with bold strokes -"This is the ridge we are on." and with tentative strokes - "I reckon that the next ridge will curve around there."

They refer to the map they brought,-"That would be this creek here which we crossed this morning." "Yes, but those spurs aren't there like that- we didn't cross them." In the light of feminism and many other changes in society, the landscape of life changes, too.

The course of life needs to be remapped. It can only be done, in the end, by walking over the territory. The aerial photos used to draw the old survey maps (some one else's journey) don't work. They are not enough to build a map for living.

And it's no good having a dogmatic belief. Theology that 'believes the right thing' and does not then go on and experience the territory, is "practical atheism." It doesn't really let God make a difference to life.

Real masculine theology is full of doubt and trial and error. It acknowledges the frequent feeling of the absence of God. It takes good account of where it is- "You can't draw the map like that! You're forgetting there must be a creek on this side of the ridge." It remembers where it has been, "We know there must be an old fence line through there. We crossed it yesterday."


When I was a boy life seemed obvious. Finish school, go back on the farm or get a job, be married- we didn't think much further than that. But life is always interrupted.

In my father's generation there was a war, and the young men were dragged off.... Six years of my father's life... No knowing if there would be a homecoming.... A legacy of memory...

In my generation the interruption is about whether I have a job and, how I can be a man. What does life mean? In our forties when we expected to be grooming a son for the farm, or to have broken the back of a suburban mortgage, we are back at 16 or 17 years old in the wild ranges of life. We are often unsure of who we are. Perhaps the farm, or the house and the job, are gone and we are being told we are too old for a job anymore!

The old maps have failed us. Water is very short on our journey. We must do some hard thinking to discern the outlines of our own new mud map. We must map a new path.

A Contour Map

Some Australianisms
Bushwalking: In Australia this means to carry your supplies in a pack. It is a rougher and more dangerous experience than implied by the word "camping" and often does not follow marked paths.
The Flinders Ranges stretch several hundred miles north from Crystal Brook in South Australia. Very rough, and sometimes very dry!
Survey maps: Australian government maps




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