Monday, May 4, 2009

Desire path

Posted by Terry McNichols

I recently heard someone mention the term "desire path." This is the term coined by Gaston Bachelard in his book, The Poetics of Space. A desire path, according to wikipedia, is "a path developed by erosion caused by animal or human footfall. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination. The width and amount of erosion of the line represents the amount of demand. Desire paths can usually be found as shortcuts where constructed pathways take a circuitous route."

We've all seen them. A worn grassy path through a field, shortcutting the route that was planned on paper. They usually represent the shortest distance between two places, and all the fences and "keep off the grass" signs seem to have no impact.

I have been thinking lately of how we often seem to live our lives in the "desire path" that best suits us. We ignore the things we've learned -- the sermons, the self-help books, the life lessons, and follow the path of least resistance. We fall back on the familiar patterns, sinking into bad behaviors, addictions, depression, cynicism -- whatever form our own path of least resistance offers.

Sometimes city planners go ahead and pave the "desire path," giving in to the path of least resistance. I hope I'm not paving too many of my own desire paths.... I suppose I could just as easily write about taking the road less traveled, but that's for another day.
(Photo by wetwebwork, shared via Flickr)

No comments: