An Address to My Friends at Dartmouth

I’m sure you’ve all seen the little mud path that emerges on the Baker lawn in the spring.  The one that goes straight out a ways and then curves to the west.  It gets beat down every winter and mud-season by the feet trying to get from the library to FoCo as directly as possible.  That sort of thing is called a “desire path.”  It is, simply put, the path that people tend to want to follow.  Some desire paths eventually become institutionalized.  The path that’s now Massachusetts’s Route 2 was already ground into the earth before the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth.

If you look at the Green after the first big snow, you’ll see a number of desire paths emerge that bear no relation to the nonsense gravel paths laid out for you.  Why do those paths exist, then?  Well, they’re old desire paths (they’re actually the desire paths of the cows that used to graze on the Green, which is interesting to note, but kind of ruins my metaphor, so I’ll ask you to ignore it).

Dartmouth is kind of like that sometimes.  Institutions which don’t make sense are like those gravel paths — they’re someone else’s desire paths.  And once they get paved you can feel quite stuck to them.

But, its not so bad as all that.  There’s a particular corner near Fahey-McClane which you may cut through if you’re heading from Frat Row to FoCo.  It used to have one of those mud paths, but last spring, some paving stones were set there.  It’s a real path, now, maybe six feet long — a silly little thing but one crafted in part by sheer stubborness.

In my freshman year the Dartmouth Standup Comedy Group (admittedly, another silly little thing) was founded.  In my time with the group we moved from being completely unknown, to an object of derision, to actually being invited to events by other groups.  This is not the most earth shattering change to campus culture and I don’t pretend to think it improves anyone’s lives other than people who like standup, but I’m glad we wore down our path.

So here’s my advice to you:  Don’t be afraid to get your shoes wet.  Walk a little in the snow and see who follows.  Schoolboys used to tell each other in dog’s latin “don’t let the bastards grind you down,” but I think its more important for you to remember that although it may not be easy, with enough feet and enough time, you might grind them down.

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Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thanks Dan.


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