Go for a Walk, Why Don’t You

And if you’re uninspired by the title, consider reading this lovely essay on walking, at least. Here’s an excerpt:

The proponents for why we should be walking (and Solnit and Careri can certainly be counted among the first of their ranks) extol the act for its ethical, political and environmental implications: walking as a defense of free time against the dark arts of technology, walking (as the urban and environmental conservationists claim) as a practice that will get us out of air conditioned cars and away from computers so that we can begin to live together “in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.” Walking that will cause us to remember to remember the world around us, to take some time to smell the roses and rivers and historic buildings and thus begin to care about what happens to them.  And for these advocates there is no better or more important time to walk than now, when the processes of globalization, the ascendancy of car culture, and the ubiquity of cheap communication technology are increasingly alienating us from our environments, our neighbors, and ourselves. Both histories are written in such a way that they place the reader at the end of the historic road, hand off a baton, and say, now it’s your turn, walk, you’re our last and only hope.

But in taking such an untempered romantic, nostalgic, and somewhat regressive stance towards walking and its relationship to technological progress, these writers fail to encompass the complexity of the issue in ways that contemporary art and literature of walking has. The narrator of Sergio Chejfec’s recent novel My Two Worlds sums up the dominant discourse on walking when he writes, “Even before I could understand it with any certainty, in all likelihood I sensed that the main argument in favor of walking was its pace; it was optimal for observation and thought, and furthermore it was the corporeal experience with the best syntax to accompany one in life.”

While reading it, I was reminded of one of my favorite essays of all time, “Walking” by Henry David Thoreau, and also of my former philosophy colleague, George Streeter, who told me about a work of Rousseau’s on walking (which I WILL read this year!), and then I was reminded of this review of a “play” called “en route” that sounded unbelievably awesome and more than a little bit unnerving.

All of which has me jonesing for a good, long wander of a walkabout.

2 thoughts on “Go for a Walk, Why Don’t You

  1. In that vein, let’s not forget Rousseau’s _Reveries of the Solitary Walker_. Who wouldn’t enjoy a brooding treatise on getting lost in self and nature, wherein personal and political insight spring from each lonely and bitter step?
    http://books.google.com/books/about/The_reveries_of_the_solitary_walker.html?id=dYlkKJ0CHnEC

    Your post also made me think of Kant’s legendary, ritual strolls. This held my attention for a bit:
    http://www.nicolaiwallner.com/artists/joachim/kantwalktext.html

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