Friday, January 9

Walking and Thinking

"I can only meditate when I'm walking. When I stop, my mind ceases to think; my mind only works with my legs."

-Jean-Jacques Rousseau
I came across this quote in Jay Walljasper's The Great Neighborhood Book, and it provoked the realization that there is actually a long-standing connection between walking and thinking in the lineage of Western philosophy.
  1. Aristotle, according to legend, would walk around the Lycium Gymnasium in Athens as he espoused his ideas to the followers that had gathered. This group of followers were eventually labeled the Peripatetic school, derived from the Greek Pateo, to walk.

  2. Augustine of Hippo was anxiously walking through his garden, wrestling with the tensions between his own life and his neo-platonic ideals, when he famously overheard the children's song, "take up and read." His response was to pick up the Apostle Paul's epistle to the Romans, an act that he would later attribute to his conversion to Christianity.

  3. Immanuel Kant, in true Enlightenment fashion, structured his life around a precise routine. Every day, he would wake up early in the morning and go for a walk along a path to a nearby river. His neighbors were said to have set their clocks by the time he strolled by their house.
And these are just the famous stories I can recall off-hand. There seems to be something about walking that hits the perfect balance between peace of mind and energy of movement. Somehow I doubt that the survival instincts generated by a rush-hour drive to the regional SuperStore discount outlet and a lap around the parking lot inspires the same level of contemplation.


grvsmth said...

There's a Latin proverb that refers to this: Solvitur ambulando, you can solve it by walking.

Mr. Johnson said...

Most of my moments of contemplation happen on my walk to and from the metro everyday or when walking my dog alone. I don't know what it is, but I appreciate the historical insight.

Dave said...

If only Robert Moses had used his walks for good instead of evil:) Ok he did some good with all the parks, but not so good with all the freeways. But his ideas came from his walks.

Unknown said...

This reminds me of what the aboriginal Australians call walkabout

njh said...

And 'peri' meaning around (perimeter). said...

nice to know more people are like this =`]