A History of Walking
By Rebecca Solnit
C h a p t e r 2
THE MIND AT THREE MILES AN HOUR
Katie Louise Leigh – Atherton
The chapter I have chosen ‘The Mind at Three Miles an Hour’ recounts the history of walking from the time of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates , through the 18th and 19th centuries with the works of Rousseau and Kierkegaard to the present day perspective of how ‘the body’ is impacted by the environment in works such as Elaine Scarry’s ‘The Body in pain;The Unmaking and making of the world’.
Solnit uses the works of Rousseau and Kirkegaard to illustrate the effect and influence walking has in enabling the mind to extend the boundaries of thought and permit the evolution of new ideas and philosophies. In Rousseau’s case this enabling was brought about mainly through solitary walking in rural, idyllic landscapes where Rousseau was able to detach himself from the strains and constraints of everyday life and the drudgery of the poorer classes. By contrast, Kirkegaard walked mainly in urban areas in the company of his father but did most of his thinking sitting alone but directly influenced by the life, noise and variety of the city around him.
The very act of walking as a major stimulus to thought process and development is well illustrated in Rousseau’s claim that, ‘Never did I think so much, exist so vividly, and experience so much, never have I been so much myself-if I may use that expression-as in journeys I have taken alone and on foot.’
Rousseau reinforces this need to walk to think effectively when he states’ ‘When I stay in one place , I can hardly think at all.’
These thoughts find parallels in the works of Robert Smithson who also found that the act of walking and the experiences and sensations encountered during walks in the real landscape proved invaluable, as the interaction between himself and a changing environment provided a rich seam of ideas for his...
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