Why Are You Always Walking in Circles?

Come here, darling, and let me blindfold you. No, not for that. We'll save that for later, with the rum and the oils and the fur-lined blankets, the soft hum of the night.

For now, just the blindfold. Comfortable? Tight enough? No light, no landmarks, no stars, no touch, no way to navigate except via your own internal compass and maybe some low and expectant moaning? Excellent.

And now, off you go. Start walking. Or perhaps swimming. Or even sailing. Any sort of locomotion, really, that would employ only said internal guide and no way to know in just what direction you're moving, but endless space in which to move.

Are you afraid? Worry you might walk on forever, never to return? Concerned you might fall off the edge of the world? Fear not. You won't get lost. You won't get swallowed by the Void. Here is the big secret: You'll come back around eventually. Hell, everyone does.

Have you heard? Did you read about the intriguing, adorable new study, featured on a terrific little NPR segment just recently, that says no matter who you are and how you're built, no matter if you're right-brained or left, pygmy or giant, black or white, gay or straight, hairy or bald, French or Scandinavian, you will, eventually and no matter what, walk in a circle?

It's true. This is the finding, the universal truth, as evidenced by German researcher named Jan Souman who might win the prize for most unexpectedly cool and enthralling little study of the year. All of us, if blindfolded, will eventually walk (or sail, swim, etc) in a circle.

It might be a huge circle. It might take a while. Or you might loop around crazily a few times, like a spirograph on meth. You almost certainly won't know it's happening because your perfectly reasonable little brain will be utterly convinced that you're moving dead straight ahead. But a circle it shall be.

Do you think you know why this happens? Do you have a theory? You are probably wrong.

Souman tested most possible explanations for our wonky personal orbit. It's not because one leg is longer than the other. It's not because the Earth is tilting just so. It's not a balance thing, a right/left brain thing, a one-side-is-stronger-than-the-other thing. It is unrelated to gender or weight or political affiliation, though some will surely deny it's happening at all because it sounds vaguely liberal and it was on NPR and some people's perspectives just aren't all that nimble.

In short, we do not know why it happens. It just is. And when something just is, when something just lies there like a gemstone of winking wonder, well, it drives us a little bit insane. Either that, or we just smile and nod as we recognize, deep down, that this is how it really should be. Looping around? Moving in a crazy kind of circle and not really knowing why? That just feels right, makes a kind of intuitive sense. Don't you think?

After all, straightness is essentially a cultural construct, a stiff and rather unimaginative scheme foisted upon us by industrialized society, by hierarchical religion, by hard science's undying worship of forebrain logic. Straightitude is just another illusion, occasionally useful, sometimes helpful, almost never natural.

But it sure is powerful. We are, almost without exception, trained from birth to believe the best way through is the straight and true. March in a line, work your way up, think through the problem, bring the hammer down, toil on the assembly line, fight on through to the other side -- it's all designed to keep us, you know, in line, efficient and triumphant and please keep your limbs inside the car and your eyes straight ahead and do not jump from the track. Thank you ...

Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the SF Chronicle and SFGate. Get it at or Amazon. He recently wrote a fine letter to whiny young Democrats, a column about the adorable ignorance of the Tea Party, and the trouble with the Arcade Fire. His website is Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention ...