on walking


from The Book Bench:
There’s Thoreau, who devoted an entire treatise (“Walking”) to the moral superiority of amblers, stating, “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art,” which anyway “comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker.” Thoreau himself spent at least four hours a day walking through the woods, and he did not understand those who toiled indoors, though, he writes, “they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.” (Thank you, Thoreau!)

Then there’s Rousseau, a Herculean walker, who traipsed as a young man across the Alps from Geneva to Turin and back, and then to Paris and back; who said that he couldn’t think unless walking; and who suggests, in “Reveries of the Solitary Walker,” his final work, that only he who wanders alone can become “self-sufficient like God.” (Not that Rousseau didn’t whinge on other occasions about the lack of a walking companion.)