My senior year of high school, my friends and I pulled quite a few pranks.
Besides impeding traffic with an army of bicyclists and playing games of “human rodeo,” we also pulled a prank with interesting psychological consequences.
One morning in the middle of winter after a night of heavy snow, three friends and I showed up to the student parking lot at 5 a.m. with three shovels in tow.
This parking lot was one large, snow-filled football field away from the school.
We set upon that field in the dark of morning for an hour with our coats, mitts and shovels to create the most windy, most nonsensical path to the school. If students were to follow a straight line and forgo our schizophrenic path, they would save many painful minutes in the blistering cold.
I swear Drake’s facilities department did the same thing when they laid out some of our paths.
The result of our psychological experiment in high school? We have it on film: hundreds of students walked twenty paces left, backwards, and diagonal in our designated path instead of paving their own way, straight through the snow to the school.
On my way to class the other day I saw a student leap over the grass at a crux of the sidewalk so as not to touch the grass.
This man literally jumped in the air where two sidewalks met instead of setting one foot in the green grass. I hope he was either allergic to grass or had habitual jumping problems.
I began thinking, “Just how much of our lives do we follow the prescribed order of nonsensical things?”
If we take a large, ovular path from Hubbell to Meredith without thinking about it, is there a chance we are doing the same with matters of greater importance?
Now, yes, our ovular paths are aesthetically pleasing. Our admissions numbers might be hurt if prospective students showed up for their campus tour at Drake to a maze of concrete that was the most pragmatic for getting to class.
But how often do we avoid doing the “unusual” because a concrete path is already laid out? How often do we follow our society’s, parents’ or peers’ codes, and not walk on the grass?
Whenever I walk on the grass, I feel some pride in my intentionality. I think, “Wow, I am a great human, look at all these other robots mindlessly following dumb paths to get to class.”
Then I realize I’m back on the concrete myself.
Why am I sitting in an uncomfortable chair at my desk in GK while writing this and not in some inflatable jungle gym?
Why do we feel pressure to look, act, dress or speak a certain way when it may be hellishly expensive or conforming?
Why do we only pee in porcelain?
Ah, well, that one kind of makes sense I guess.
But seriously, we do quite a bit to follow the concrete paths that are already laid out for us.
When we look at our futures, they are unique, but they follow many paths that are already laid out for us.
Why don’t we speak out when things don’t make sense? Why don’t we build new paths in our world?
Whether it is in our lives, or on our way to class, it is fun once in a while to live intentionally, to walk on the grass. It’s something we could all try to do more often. Then, ironically, things might start making a little more sense.
And who knows? Maybe Drake facilities workers are just hiding out with some hot cocoa and a video camera as we all go marching 20 paces backwards, sideways and diagonally.