Saturday, January 30, 2016

Purposeless Walking

In a recent post of the BBC: "A number of recent books have lauded the connection between walking - just for its own sake - and thinking. But are people losing their love of the purposeless walk?" We are not given an explicit list of these books, but there are references to "Frederic Gros, A Philosophy of Walking," "Geoff Nicholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking," "Merlin Coverley, author of The Art of Wandering: The Writer as Walker," and "Rebecca Solnit, author of Wanderlust: A History of Walking.[1]

The advice of these books is boiled down the the following "key tips:
  • Walk further and with no fixed route
  • Stop texting and mapping
  • Don't soundtrack your walks
  • Go alone
  • Find walkable places
  • Walk mindfully
Not bad advice, but largely negative. What about some positive advice, like
  • Carry paper and pencil (or some electronic device) to take notes
Why? Here a passage from Friedrich Paulsen, a German Kant scholar you need not know:
Unexpectedly, the essay suddenly took shape in my mind. I pulled out my notebook and began to write while I sauntered along. When I arrived at Eutin, the sketch was finished, and I had a clear idea of the whole. All that was left for me to do was to rewrite it and fill in the details—an enjoyable task, which occupied me during the following weeks at home.

Many of my articles have come into being in a similar way, as, for example, “Instruction in Philosophy, Its Past and Its Future.” I was taking an evening stroll along my father’s fields at Langenhorn, when the whole article suddenly stood before my mind, so that I felt induced to pencil down a rapid outline on the spot. Many a chapter in my Ethics has had a similar origin.

Strange as it may seem, a creative mood also came over me not infrequently when I was traveling in a train or a street car or when I was walking in the streets of Berlin. In every possible and impossible situation I wrote such outlines down, elaborating them afterward at home into an article or a chapter in a book. On the other hand, when I sit at my desk in the morning, the productive mood often so persistently refuses to appear that, after all sorts of futile attempts my pen down at last and take up a book or go out for a walk. And then it happens not so rarely that what I had been vainly to think out or put into shape comes to me quite by itself.
There is even recent study that supports the connection between walking and thinking (mentioned in the article).

The eighteenth and nineteenth century had not yet forgotten the connection between walking and thinking. Nor is it perhaps an accident that the Aristotelians are also known as the "peripatetics" or walkers (in the "collonnades)."



1. I searched Amazon for "walking" and found these titles as well (as well as some e-books and Thoreau's essay on walking).

1 comment:

Jay Moynihan said...

"Carry paper and pencil (or some electronic device) to take notes"
Excellent advice