Blind man walking

​As the left foot goes forward, the stick sweeps to the left. As the right foot goes forward, it sweeps to the right. 

Left. Right. Left. Right.

Partially sighted people use something called a long cane when they’re walking. It helps them detect obstacles, changes in level, and ultimately keeps them safe.

When I walk into town, I sometimes see a man walking with one of these canes. And he’s always pulling a cart behind him.

My first thought is gratitude. I can’t imagine what it is like to be only partially sighted. Sometimes, my second thought is this: How many times does he have to walk a route to feel comfortable with it?

There’s two ways to look at this.

You could assume that his aim is to get from A to B. To do that, he has to find the shortest, most convenient path and repeat it. Or, you could assume that his aim is to explore whilst going from A to B. To map out the most accurate representation of his route.

The former is knowing there’s a path that goes from A to B. The latter is knowing there’s a path from A to B, and that on the right hand side there’s a wall running for thirty meters and access to two people’s driveways on the left.

In our own lives, we get caught up with getting from A to B. With finding the most convenient, shortest route. But perhaps we should spend some more time exploring our most common paths?

It’s a different approach to risk. What is easy and convenient is so because it is risk free. Exploring means wandering into the unknown and the uncharted. It means going outside the bounds of your current knowledge. It means bumping up against obstacles and constraints.

Each approach has it’s advantages, and both are useful. But when we have a choice, I think we go for the less risky, the safer choice more than we should. 

To truly know our world, we have to forget about our destination. We have to spend some time building a better map of the world around us.