Notes on Blocks

On Mental Maps

by Cedric Payne

This piece came out of a new event series called “Are.na Walkthroughs” in which we ask people to take us through a particular channel, the blocks and ideas held within, and the ways those ideas may have evolved as the channel has grown and accumulated. Our second one was on April 23 over Zoom, and it featured Dodi King, Rohan Chaurasia, Cedric Payne, and Francis Tseng. Here, Cedric shares some of what he talked about while walking us through his channel mental map.”

Mental map is my digital garden of sorts...a space for me to grow and cultivate a greater sense of self. Tending to this space brings me a sense of calm and encourages mindful digital practices—deleting old blocks and reorganizing new ones can be miraculously therapeutic. 

The channel started off as a place to store old journal entries, but incidentally I forgot to make the channel private. Quickly, 10 years worth of journal entries were out in public and I had no clue. One day, I saw some people start to connect a handful of my high-school journal entries to their channels. Admittedly, I just wasn’t ready for that kind of exposure—I decided to pivot and move all the blocks to a private channel. 

I decided to keep the original channel and use it to collect media that inspired me and encouraged self-reflection. Presently, this manifests in images, videos, text, and sound. Are.na serves as a tool to ambiently collect the artifacts that make up my personal history. By cataloguing media relative to my fears, desires, and stresses, I am able to map out a traceable understanding of my evolving reality. 

Are.na’s knowledge sharing ecosystem makes creating a digital garden super easy. Users can gather seeds of information, sprouted and categorized by the minds of others. The best part is you can trace their roots. These seeds of information eventually grow into patches of thoughts and images, existing within the context of your own digital garden. The more you add to the garden, the more diverse your foundation for growth becomes. 

Admittedly, I used Are.na a bit carelessly when I first joined. I have a channel called Reference Images with over 15,000 blocks in it...I don't really want that to happen with mental map. I’ve decided to treat the channel / garden like a database for my psyche. In practice, this means being more mindful about what I add to the mix—each block should resonate in some way.


More people should genuinely ask themselves why they do what they do, and for what purpose. We don’t progress with limited perspectives. As Yuval Noah Harari states, “This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies.” Learning and spreading knowledge is essential for humanity. Challenging the conventions of your mind allows you to cultivate a greater capacity for empathy, ultimately reframing your understanding of phenomena, disciplines, or ideologies.


“Treat people as if they are what they ought to be, and you can help them become what they are capable of becoming” - Keith Cozart of 300


What does it really mean to live in the moment? For me, it means to focus on the immediate; don’t allow life to pass you by, support guiding its direction. I’m trying to stay grounded while navigating ambiguity—my present reality is all I really have control over, so I’m learning how to adapt to change more than plan for it. It’s easy to get caught up in the world around you. Gucci Mane said it best: “don’t get lost in the sauce.” Ambiguity shapes the world, and that’s the context for which I’ll continue to live. My ultimate intention is to navigate ambiguity on my own terms; with positive intent, in control of my immediate reality.


“I was hurtin', savin' [those] who wouldn't do the same

Gave my purpose out to [those] who was choosin' fame

The truth amazing

So thinkin' about it make me sick of what they do to hang

They try to frame me like I'm trippin', they will loot the game

'Cause when it wasn't for a minute, who was movin' strange?

Too soon to say

Me, I just pursue the pavement, this polluted maze

Tryna get the mood raisin' and accumulate

Found out that my tomb been waitin' while I zoot and pray

Honestly, the youth been dazin', livin' too awake

Uh, I'm livin' too awake”- MIKE


Social media profiles have become the user interface for many people's lives. People stage aspects of themselves in a curatorial manner. Users present versions of themselves that they would be comfortable with people interacting with and organizations profiting from. Digital life forces you to shrink the complexities of identity into bite sized chunks of digestible content—no one's life is so simple.


“If you inherently long for something, become it first. If you want gardens, become the gardener. If you want love, embody love. If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation. If you want peace, exude calmness. If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint. If you want to be valued, respect your own time. If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself. This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.” — Victoria Erickson

Cedric Payne is a product manager, design consultant and visual artist based in Vancouver, BC.