Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Joy of Walking: A Philosophy

It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.
— Nietzsche

“The joy of walking transcends setting; it engages the mind as well as the spirit.” -- Lauren Elkin.

In an interesting book, Philosophy of Walking, Frederic Gros explores the connection between philosophy and walking.

“Think while walking,” Gros writes “walk while thinking, and let writing be but the light pause, as the body on a walk rests in contemplation of wide open spaces.”

Here are my thoughts on walking.

- History of Walking and Philosophers
Socrates walked about the Athenian marketplace, questioning people as they go about their business.

Aristotle taught as he walked along the corridors of the Lyceum. His followers were known as the Peripatetic school. (The literal meaning of Greek word περιπατητικός peripatêtikos, is "of walking" or "given to walking about".)

Thoreau spent much time walking and extolled the value of walking in his essay “On Walking”. He writes, “I found my account in climbing a tree once. It was a tall white pine, on the top of a hill;.. I was well paid for it, for I discovered new mountains in the horizon which I had never seen before—so much more of the earth and the heavens. I might have walked about the foot of the tree for threescore years and ten, and yet I certainly should never have seen them.”

Even social revolutions start with walks. The non-violent marches of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are good examples.
“We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back,” King promised in his speech, ‘I Have A Dream’.

Often, religious pilgrimages involve walking up steep, unending mountainous paths or long street processions as acts of faithfulness.

Poets, such as Wordsworth and Frost, had also found inspiration during their walks in nature.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” – William Wordsworth

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference” – Robert Frost

- The Meaning of Walking
Walking is an active, embodied action. We walk as one united Being, inseparable in body and mind.

During walks, the body interacts with the environment and the mind. We are stimulated, receive random thoughts and feel various sensations all at once.

Walking is always a walking away from something and moving towards a horizon. Walking away is an escape, but also an act of defiance. Walking brings us from inauthentic life to authenticity.

Walking, hence, is “searching-for” an alternative life, an aspiring act of faith in future possibilities. Walking is making connections with a new life. Heed Thoreau’s advice, “If you would get exercise, go in search of the springs of life.”

Walking is an act of freedom. You can walk wherever as you want to. There’s a sense of randomness and surprises in walking.

Trekking, hiking, exploring new places are various forms of walking that can de-stress, stimulate creativity and add new meaning to our lives.

Unplanned surprises that meet us during such activities force us out of our comfort zone.Challenge us with new ways of living.

As Thoreau says, ““Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him.”

Walking also is good exercise and keeps us actively engaged in life.


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