Julian weiss

Labyrinthian Homes

What was once complexity is now comfort

The more challenging it is to navigate a place, the more at home you can feel there.

Is it overeager to propose that principle, mere moments after refining the edges of it? To me, it’s effortlessly sensical, particularly with anecdotal experience. Either way, you can take mine.

It’s ten-thirty, and the deep darkness outside pours in through the just-a-bit opened window on the far side of the room. As light chords play against stuffed, tired ear-drums, a sense of satisfaction is aching to be felt, but is still long away. By midnight, all practical shops on campus tend to be closed, and it’s hard to say when would be a better time to use them. Lights flick off, a coat is swept from the back of a deskchair, and a hat cozied onto head. With resolute, knowing strides, the mind can wander farther than feet. Jumping down stairs, passing through half-shut doors, ducking between groups, and weaving through sporadic hallways, it almost seems unreal that someone wouldn’t be able to navigate the parallel mazes that make up the few acres of home. On a map, however, the trail is more similar to a series of complex waves bounded on top of each other rather than any semblance of an easy-to-trace line.

Complex Waves (Kevin Russell, University of Manitoba)
The more challenging it is to navigate a place, the more at home you can feel there.

This theory, clearly, implies more about the nature of human psychology and familiarity than it does of structure or statistics. It’s a statement of our attachment to the known; in a way, a re-emphasis of our strive to learn, and retain that knowledge (failures of which haunt us to this day). It’s the inverse of our fear of the dark, that which is “usually not fear of darkness itself, but fear of possible or imagined dangers concealed by darkness.” Our utmost familiarity with a place brings ultimate contentment. And, it follows that, the more there is to be familiar with, the more capability we have for comfort and fulfillment. The more we struggle, the more we overcome. The more curves on the wave, the more satisfaction in deriving its properties.

In any case, that’s my snippet for today. Now you might better understand why college campuses are full of happy students subconsciously navigating deep mazes of buildings and quadrangles. And, why we enjoy not having to think about it, too.

Note: this precise property can also be applied to education and broader fields. The more complex a topic, a subset, the more fantastic it is to be good at it, and to know your way around. It’s easier to open-source when you know you’ve got good source.