Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Meaning Map Making or Igniting the Midnight Petroleum

Written by: on February 24, 2022

Expanding my worldview continues to be a driving force behind working toward my doctorate. I recognize the need to have my core beliefs and assumptions excavated to strengthen my leadership.  This is one reason why the meaning map making is engaging. Friedman applies the analogy of cartographers work in illustrating the impact of anxiety on being able to explore past equators[1]. Lieberman and Long are “cartographers” of sort in their unpacking of the brain’s use of dopamine.[2] Simon Winchester spins a yarn around the life of William Smith, the cartographer of geology.  As these authors invite me to consider the cartographer/s of my worldview, I cannot help feeling like Star Trek’s Data…

Winchester’s book, The Map That Changed the World, is partly a biography of William Smith and part history by sharing the economic, social, religious/philosophical context of Smith’s geological map making. Smith, a man of humble means and no deep education was a surveyor of coal canals.  The hours upon hours Smith spent investigating canals, led him to be an observant researcher of the complexities of the earth.  Discovering patterns in layers and fossil remains, Smith was able “to see what others could have seen but never did, to set down on paper what others might have suspected, but never felt confident enough to declare.”[3] Smith spent 22 years researching, investigating, and drawing what is now known as the first geological map of Britain, Wales and part or Scotland which earned him the title, “The Father of Geology.” Winchester clearly admires Smith’s tenacity, intelligence, and visionary tendencies. And though Winchester tells the Hero’s Journey[4] of Smith, the affect his map has had on the worldview of generations that followed is profound.

The most fascinating part of Winchester’s claim is how Smith’s geological map paved the way for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution because of the “profound modification of the way in which people thought of nature, of society, and of themselves.”[5]. The burgeoning enlightenment of the 18th century brought with it questions about certainty; why are we here, who put us here, what assurance do we have, how do we find our place in this world all were doorways that fomented new ways of thinking.  “Instead of mapping just the surface, he [Smith] had to map what lay below it, translating three dimensions into two.”[6] That in and of itself challenged the long-held belief by the church that the earth was only 6000 years old. It also seems to have challenged the cultural identity by pushing people to consider how they must look beneath the surface of social, economic, religious/philosophical constructs.  Ok, maybe I am projecting my own interpretation of Smith’s work, but if we are cartographers of our meaning map making, I think the analogy works. Just as Smith delved into the layers of strata, so must I if I am to expand my worldview.

Data’s solution to a problem comes on the heels of learning about the idiom, “Burning the midnight oil”.[7] His curiosity about how it came to use in contemporary language reveals programming that is driven by expanding his worldview.  His quick processing allowed him to apply the new knowledge. With the installation of a new field induction subprocessor, I will be “igniting the midnight petroleum” by way of my intentional work in my pursuit of my ever-expanding worldview.



[1] Friedman, Edwin H., and Peter Steinke. 2017. A Failure of Nerve, Revised Edition: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. 10th Anniversary edition. New York: Church Publishing. Page 45-55.

[2] Lieberman, Daniel Z., and Michael E. Long. 2018. The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity―and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race. 1st Edition. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books. Page 7-9, 62-63, 104-106.

[3] Winchester, Simon, and Soun Vannithone. 2009. The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology. Reprint edition. New York, NY: Harper Perennial. Page 186.

[4] Campbell, Joseph. 1973. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Reprint edition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Making a reference to Campbell’s thesis of mythology of the Hero’s Journey.

[5] Ibid. Page 21

[6] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/WilliamSmith

[7]All Good Things. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 7, Episode 25.

About the Author


Nicole Richardson

PC(USA) pastor serving a church in Kansas City. In my spare time I teach yoga and scuba diving

5 responses to “Meaning Map Making or Igniting the Midnight Petroleum”

  1. mm Andy Hale says:

    Nicole, as we both value the commitment to self and familial care, how do we effectively burn the midnight oil? I look back at the history of innovators and see a commitment to their craft that goes beyond 9-5. At the same time, I’m going to assume that their relationships suffered as a result.

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Andy it is a fantastic question and challenge!! I think that we require people whom we trust enough that can also trust us to listen deeply when they lift up a mirror to us and say “Who are your becoming?”

  2. mm Eric Basye says:

    Good stuff Nicole. I like this point: “Smith was able to see what others could have seen but never did.”

    That is both encouraging, and terrifying. Encouraging that the potential is there for us to see and engage; terrifying (at least for me) in the fear of, ‘but what if I miss it?’

    I would say that being mindful of these principles we can hopefully be on the cutting edge of leadership, namely in that we are asking deep probing questions, we are humble enough to admit we might be wrong, and we are bold enough to explore areas that perhaps are taboo or have not yet been explored.

  3. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Nicole, there is so much depth in this post. I like how you, like others, made the connection the the hero’s journey. I missed that myself but see the connection now. You mention how Smith’s map forced people to look beneath the surface of many important issues. Do you think the people of that time did that well? I know that question may be beyond the book, but I wonder if the results were more positive or negative. One of my assumptions from the reading is that what Smith identified led to land-grabbing colonialism as nations assumed “there’s gold in dem dar hills!” I fear the dark side of the human soul took new information and twisted so much of it for personal gain. Also, you write: “Just as Smith delved into the layers of strata, so must I if I am to expand my worldview.” In what ways do you think you can delve deeper in your worldview and expand it? Is there a third dimension to you (or anyone) beyond what is already known?

  4. Elmarie Parker says:

    Thank you, Nicole, for your reflection on Smith’s life-journey. I especially value the application to our own meaning-map-making work. Using Smith’s geological map as a metaphor for our own work is a helpful image for me. As are the examples you offer from our other readings. Thank you. Which stratas in your own life do you feel most drawn to explore at this time? Which maps most help you do that exploration work? Do you have a sense now of new maps may you need to discover or make?

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