The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. – First Geometry I learned, and probably the most regularly accessed geometry I still use. I can hear my Mama saying it. When I walked across university and grad school campuses, I would say it to myself. When I want to finish tasks, I say this to myself to remind me to work focusedly, efficiently, logically.
Stripes in clothing are having a heyday. The curtains above separating 2 rooms at the Museum of Antrhopology captured my senses as much as the beautiful exhibits of human creativity. Everywhere I look, there are beautiful lines. Order, symmetry they are beautifully connecting in a predictable way.
I like the idea of moving from here to there efficiently, of thinking a thought to its logical outcome, of letting a conversation complete along one topic, of finishing a task all the way until it’s actually done. And yet my real life is one of interrupted actions, thoughts, visits, responsibilities, and rarely predictable.
Several years ago I read of the monk Aidan of Lindisfarne who famously walked as he served Ireland, so that he could speak words of encouragement, truth, and hope found in Christ to those he met along the way. He was given a horse to let him travel more efficiently from village to village, but he promptly gave the horse to the first person he met. When asked why he gave up this tool of efficiency, he explained that his walking let him meet people where they are.
Today, my husband has a day off. I made a list of what needs to be done, and then we took a walk. My plan was to come home and tackle the list. As we turned onto our street and got onto the sidewalk 3-4 houses down from our home, there was a woman weaving down the sidewalk. She fell. She was bleeding; head gashed. She was able to talk. Craig got the phone and called 911. One of my teens who was home sick got tissues. And I talked with her. And then I talked with the teenager who walked by and demanded to know if we were going to get help, if we were going to stay with her until help came. The woman was lying down bleeding in my flower bed; leaving her wasn’t on the mind. Nothing was further from my consideration than the list of tasks that had been so important 45 minutes before. Meeting people where they are – the concerned, responsible teen; the bleeding, lying in my flower bed woman. My list for the day could not anticipate people collapsing in the garden; didn’t see it coming.
Meeting people along the way, where they are rarely is efficient.
Children have taught me that squiggly lines make beautiful art.
My thinking has always been more like the pathway of hyperlinks even before there was an Internet. I can discipline thoughts to a linear path, but that’s not how my thoughts first arrive.
All the best conversations are multilayered, heavily storied, rabbit chasing as hearts share the connections and considerations of one another.
Real life in my neighbourhood is people collapsing in the front yard; second time in 4 months. Putting aside what seems to be important in order to take care of what is urgent, painful, necessary. Or putting aside the wants of yesterday to play in my daughter’s dollhouse. Real life meanders in unforeseen ways.
So I’m going to continue to enjoy the beauty of lines around me and the beauty of the circuitous routes life, conversations, and people follow.
The shortest distance between 2 points remains a straight line.
The richest living between 2 people continues to be an inefficient, meandering path.