DESIRE LINES

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture piece begins:

“We come into this world with sealed orders.”

Søren Kierkegaard

Desire lines or paths are the names given by urban planners to what happens when one person’s impulsive shortcut encourages others to follow, creating informal, unmapped channels through a city.

Desire lines have been called “free-will ways,” “cow paths, pirate paths, social trails, kemonomichi (beast trails), chemins de l’âne (donkey paths), Olifantenpad (elephant trails),” “Paths that have Made Themselves,” “a record of civil disobedience,” and “beautiful, poetic marks of democracy.” They “indicate [the] yearning” of those wishing to walk…of giving feedback with our feet.”

Artists make desire lines from their hearts to their easels and stages and desks. Christ’s walk to Calvary is the über Desire Line: both a “shortcut” and the road from—and to—infinity.

Our culture, by contrast, encourages us to stay within safe, strictly-prescribed lines that have a predictable beginning and a predictable end.

How many of us experience “travel,” for example, by taking an uber from the airport to an air-conditioned hotel, boarding an American-run tour bus, following a prescribed itinerary from which we depart in not the slightest particular, then taking an uber back to the airport?

What about a throw-caution-to-the-winds walk? Have we no curiosity? Do our hearts not long to venture out into the streets and see how people live in this strange city we’re visiting? Have we so little imagination that we no longer yearn to see the sky, a river, a dicey neighborhood, a hidden garden, a mom-and-pop bakery, an argument?

Of course failing to venture outside of a carefully-defined bubble of comfort and security is hardly peculiar to Catholics.

But Catholics, of all people, should be pulsatingly aware of the mystery and the glory of the Incarnation, of our endlessly fascinating brothers and sisters, and of the world outside our doors. Catholics, of all people, should be adventurers, pilgrims and wanderers.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

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