Nobody is starting from Scratch

Starting out from a place called Scratch

Hiking and Scratch as a place in storytelling

Text and drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt,

Hikers sometimes claim they’ve started out from Scratch… but mostly they didn’t. And very few hikers ever say they are heading for Scratch- at least knowingly. Starting out from scratch is something we say, and for more than one reason

Here are at least three ways and reasons we use the Starting from scratch phrase, and to me they all seem to be about storytelling, more than about reality:

#1 Myth of origin – Starting out from Scratch

The most often used reason people say they started from scratch is to explain that they have come a long, tough way. It is often the rags to riches (Wikipedia link ) story. A story about how some hero made it big. It is the archetype of the story about starting from Scratch.

Even a lot of people who has started pretty well of, still want to buy into this story and say they come from Scratch because it is so appealing and simple. It is one of those stories we all  like to hear and identify with.

So when around the camp-fire at night, fellow hikers often, when asked about their story, will lean back and say: Me?…,  looking into the fire, taking a sip of their cup:  “I started from Scratch, I came a long way” Warming up to share their story.

2# Let’s look ahead – The freedom of starting out from Scratch

The landscape after a thunderstorm is amazing, everything has been cleaned by the heavy rain and look all new. Beginnings are both innocent and holds more options and chances than further down the trail, Starting from Scratch can also be about options in the future:

The Camino de Santiago trail ( St. James Way) has taken this a step further. When you hike this trail in Spain on certain years, you will be forgiven all your sins when you reach the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostella on foot. Walking out of the ancient building afterwards you can look up, ready to start a new life… without being weighted down by the past. Ready to go home and start from Scratch, forgiven is the past. Now is all about looking forward

3# What past? – Starting from Scratch, as a path to deny what is all-ready there

Burning things down to the ground and bulldozing away an existing reality to make room for something new is becoming more and more popular in our modern change-oriented world. Architects, developers, business owners, politicians, city-planners, quitters and visionaries all do – or dream out loud about doing this often – Starting from Scratch.

In reality what they do is close their eyes to a too complicated starting point  It can be an ancient foot path that is in the way of a commercial mall project. It can be an endangered species found where architects have envisioned a new luxury resort. Or it can be an indigenous people’s ceremonial space or holy mountain that some mining company want to exploit. Or a lot of other things, stories and dimensions that are all neglected using words like: “What? That over there? No, there is nothing there!” Lifting arms in the air, smiling: “No, we can do what-ever we want here… We are starting from Scratch.”

Nobody starts from Scratch

Sometimes it is good to remember that nobody starts from scratch, not at least since the Big Bang event approx.13.8 Billion years ago. Everything, all adventures, stories, landscapes, trails, experiences and cultures builds on something, good or bad, something that was all-ready there.

Drawing of a yellow buldozer and a man in safety suit asking "is this scratch" Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt
Good ideas seldom starts out from Scratch

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