August 18, 2017

IF THEY WALKED MORE THEY'D HAVE MORE (self-reference alert):

WALK THIS WAY : The more we embrace the romanticism of walking, the more we seem to look down on those who walk because they have to. (Simon R. Gardner, AUG--17--2017, The Outline)
  
The artist Maira Kalman summed up the current popular regard for walking when she said, "Go out and walk. That is the glory of life."

Philosophers and thinkers have long pushed the idea of walking as respite, as a creative fountain -- or as Nietzsche said: "Only thoughts that are reached by walking have value." But what if walking, far from being benign and noble, instead represents just another conflict of our ongoing culture wars, where the forces of progress have whitewashed the past to reach the present? This proxy battle celebrates the walker of leisure and ignores those who walk because they have no other choice.

In philosophical evocations, walking is routinely an experience described, and subscribed to, by those who don't need to walk. Walking is luxury, a high-minded ramble of the enlightened; its elitism hiding behind a ruse of apparent accessibility. 
Exactly what you think about when you think about walking is your own internal indicator of where you live, your status, your wealth, your class. Even walking at its seemingly most egalitarian can be anything but. When the father of America's National Parks, John Muir, declared that "going out was really going in," he was speaking to people with time, to people whose lives weren't monopolized by survival.

Walking is an activity through which the haves are separated from the have-nots. There are the walkers of leisure and the walkers of necessity, who walk to survive, because there is no other way for them to move.

All across the world people walk. They walk in cities not designed for those without means. They walk not as a hobby, or to keep fit, or to save the environment, or to think. They walk out of necessity. While walkers of leisure may strive to escape humanity, "indentured" walkers seek it out; for trade, for food, for communication, for life. The essayist Edward Abbey once described walking as "... the only form of transportation in which a man proceeds erect -- like a man -- on his own legs," forgetting that the walker of necessity is often slumped, tired, searching for satisfaction at the destination, rather than from the act of walking itself.

While I am unquestionably one of the haves, when The Boy got a job this Summer I started walking home the four miles from work so he could have a car.  It wasn't romantic, just sensible.

Posted by at August 18, 2017 8:55 PM

  

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