Consider the shortcut

Consider the shortcut

Wayne Curtis on the lost art of the long walk:

[W]hen we move by foot today … it always seem to involve brief, intense tromps motivated by a single purpose. We walk to the garage to get to the car. We walk from the mall parking lot to Best Buy. We walk from Gate 4 to Gate 22 in Terminal B.


We also seem to be losing our capacity for in-depth walking. Walking is now short-term scanning. Thoreau liked to spend four hours every day rambling, free of tasks and immediate goals. He lamented that his fellow townsmen would recall pleasant walks they’d taken a decade ago, but had “confined themselves to the highway ever since.“ ”The length of his walk uniformly made the length of his writing,“ Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of his friend. “If shut up in the house, he did not write at all.

With respect to long walks, let’s consider the value of the short-term. The shortcut.

Shortcuts are sort of secrets for locals. A shortcut out loud might sound something like, “Oh, to get to the freeway, actually take a right instead of a left. It will be 10 minute shorter.” But a shortcut is never done. Once you’re let in on the shortcut, you want more. You can always save more time. You can always imagine a shorter way. And there probably is.

All secrets are not shortcuts, but all shortcuts are secrets. Perhaps then shortcuts are secret handshakes. Perhaps they’re secret handshakes for a public. A private public.

Consider that un-long walks are not anti-walking, then, but rather pro-shortcut. Pro-secret. Pro-belonging.

Adapted from #LAD05, a package for Quarterly.