Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thoughts on walking

    I have noticed that the “outside” world is as Gros says, a transitional place in our modern world. However, it is interesting to note that this has only been the case in the last few hundred years. A few centuries ago the outside was constant and there wasn’t much difference between the outside and the inside. As I’ve stated earlier in class I have a brother who literally lives in the woods in a camper in order to escape modern society. He lives in the outside. He and I talk frequently and he describes to me the unpleasantness of the “Inside” he experiences. Most things have become too loud and busy for him to handle anymore. The pace at which he lives is a crawl, there is no rush involved.
   I frequently go for walks at the Stones River National Battlefield. During these walks is really the only time I am outside. Even during these relatively short walks I can see the pace of life change into a slower, more comfortable stride. What is it about walking or perhaps just being in the “outside” as the author puts it that causes this? Is it the walking in itself or more of the outdoor part of it? Would you gain as much from walking inside as you would outside? I don’t think you would experience the same effect.
   Nietzsche constantly went on walks, especially when his head was hurting with the constant migraines that he received.  I have very bad teeth and occasionally get tooth aches. I always seem to end up walking to try and distract myself from the pain. I am uncertain whether or not it actually alleviates the pain or merely distracts me. Upon reading of Nietzsche’s constant pain and his effort to “walk it off” as the old saying goes, I found a kindred spirit or perhaps a brother in arms to say the least. Is there a medical philosophy behind a person “walking it off”? I am unaware of any medical research to support it, however it is a very common belief. As Diogenes famously said, “It is done by walking”, a sentiment that I think of frequently while trying to walk off pain.

   Walking seems to be a simple yet powerful exercise. As a mode of transportation it is about the slowest thing you could do. However, it is also a powerful activity that causes people to think clearly as they stride. 


  1. Devon,
    Thank you. I have walked several times through the cemetery at Stone's River pondering the tombstones marked unknown and wondered about the individual buried there and their families who couldn't even come to there and grieve for the loss of their family member.

  2. I love Stones River, the greenway and the battlefield. My roomie back in my first year of grad school at Vandy was a Civil War buff, he hauled me down there almost immediately when I arrived in town so the place has continued to exert a special pull. Besides being "outside," it's saturated with historical/tragical resonance. Death, sacrifice, perseverance, folly, and the continuation of life after cataclysm - it's all there.

    Rebecca Solnit writes insightfully in "Wanderlust: A History of Walkin" about how moving through open space rewires the topography of our minds. “Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors...disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it..."

    And, "When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.”

    And, “Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented society, and doing nothing is hard to do. It's best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking.”

    And, "I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought or thoughtfulness.”

    As for the medical benefits, there's a NYT story just out this week that says exercise (and walking in particular) is the "closest thing to a wonder drug" -

    "...150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity for adults, or about 30 minutes each weekday.

    Moderate intensity is probably much less than you think. Walking briskly, at 3 to 4 miles per hour or so, qualifies. So does bicycling slower than 10 miles an hour. Anything that gets your heart rate somewhere between 110 and 140 beats per minute is enough. Even vacuuming, mowing the lawn or walking your dog might qualify.

    Today, my goals are much more modest. Trekking from my office to the clinic and back again gives me 30 minutes of exercise. Or, I walk to the supermarket from my office to grab lunch, at a mile each way. In colder weather, I spend half an hour on the elliptical machine. Doing this five days a week gets me the activity I need..."

    The activity and, I'd add, the freedom of mind and spirit.