Taking a Walk for the Walk’s Sake

Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow. ~Henry David Thoreau

Yesterday I sat in Carroll Park, writing and observing the newly blooming trees of spring. Being unemployed allows me this luxury.

About 10 minutes after I sat down, a man sat next to me and pulled out his Android phone. For 20 minutes, I watched him scroll through his smart phone, checking news headlines and weather updates, Facebook feeds and check-ins for Foursquare. I am no mind reader, but it did not seem that this man had any inkling of his surroundings or awareness of anything besides his friend’s Las Vegas weekend pictures.

I do not mean to imply that I am above any form of neurosis like the gentleman I was observing. I’ve been known to check my twitter feed every two minutes. My question, I suppose, is why? Why must I feel the need to fill up my time, to never feel bored but always entertained in some way?

I don’t really have a good answer for that. Maybe it’s a culture bred of ambition and individualism. Or maybe it’s the way the human brain is hardwired, a constant wave of thoughts churning and churning for survival, but always masking what is underneath, namely good old-fashioned fear. As the great French mathematician Blaise Pascal once said “All human evil comes from a single cause, man’s inability to sit still in a room.” This quote makes a lot of sense to me.

But what I do know is that I often feel my most centered when my mind is not racing from task to task, when I do not feel the need to compulsively check my twitter feed every minute, when I am allowed the space to just be. And maybe the best way I have found that is taking a walk just because.

It is during a walk when I feel my most present, freed from the duality of anxiety and mundaneness that everyday living can bring. Many of the people I admire seemed to understand this. They understood that the room a walk allows in one’s minds was a space where nothing was expected but to exist. And it was this space that allowed for some of their most profound ideas to ferment and grow.

Soren Kierkegaard, for example, found that walking was the only salve to his debilitating anxiety and it was during these walks where he mentally composed his most famous books. And Wallace Stevens walked two miles a day where he composed poetry in his head and once said “Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.”

I can understand Mr. Stevens’s sentiment. The truth he discusses is not a truth grasped by the logical, constantly-doing mind. It is a truth that resides below the surface, something that can be grasped by those activities that have absolutely no purpose but doing them for themselves.

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3 Comments on “Taking a Walk for the Walk’s Sake”

  1. Jonathan H. says:

    Slate has a pretty fascinating piece on walking in America.


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