A friend once told me about a game he’d play to spend the empty days as a teenager in Brooklyn. He would walk out the door, pick a direction, and keep walking. Every time he reached a traffic light, he’d turn left or right at random. For hours. No destination in mind; he’d end up where he’d end up. Always somewhere new. For curiosity. For adventure. For no reason.
We are tourists, in a densely networked city of ideas, and there are tour guides at every corner. Friends. Blogs. Algorithms. Each suggesting what path to take when we reach the corner.
We tend to prefer this. We’d rather somebody hold our hand as we cross the street.
There is safety in curation.
Conversely, there is heroism in discovery.
There are few spaces left, physical or digital, where heroism is even possible. Curation and recommendation are so intrinsic to daily life that we confuse social proof for quality:
“This restaurant only has two reviews. Bad sign.”
“They’re not even on Spotify. Why would I go to their concert?”
“How helpful could this book possibly be if no one knows about it?”
This, I see, is the rare advantage of a public library: one of the last remaining spaces without tour guides. A place for heroism. A place you can turn left, turn right, turn left, hand un-held. End up where you end up. For curiosity. For adventure. For no reason.