We all know about desire paths or lines. Those diagonal paths across grass, chopping off the right-angles of pavement, those snickets through hedges to avoid the long way round, emerging through constant use because people have a good eye for quicker, easier ways to getting to the same destination.
The path below, in Brockwell Park, is slightly different.
It hasn’t been there in previous years; it’s emerged since the government has recommended social distancing rules to minimise the opportunities for Covid-19 transmission.
Out of consideration to others and themselves, people have increasingly found themselves moving off the tarmac path to the left and going across the grass. It’s helped that it’s been dry – that ground can get quite boggy in the wet. But it wasn’t created because it was a quicker or easier route, but because people have been doing their best to keep social distance. It is a Line of Consideration, yes a desire of sorts, to show a care to oneself and others, overcoming ‘quicker and easier’.
Seeing it emerge made me wonder what other habits, what other ‘lines’, will be emergent as a result of Covid social and economic measures. What patterns are we entrenching in our behaviours, quotidian processes, and mental adjustments, what paths will emerge?
It is perhaps only a different way of asking the question everyone is asking, about what gets unpicked after Covid, what doesn’t, what the new normal is. How people are answering that question seems to be determining some of people’s responses to the possibility of a short lockdown, or a long lockdown.
‘We will go back to normal’, ‘We’ll have to start reopening by June’.
Or ‘Things will not be normal for a long time, and when we emerge what memory of ‘normal’ will we have? Will our perception of how normal is constituted have changed, so that any attempt to go back to the ‘old’ normal, seem artificial in the extreme?’
It takes a lot to change people’s behaviours, despite our remarkable mental adaptability to new situations. We remain sensibly open to the quickest, easiest route to our destination.
But maybe new paths of consideration are emerging, which will persist beyond this social winter.