Monday, May 14, 2007

Walking Nige

Nietzsche (about whom Jeeves was probably on the money when he judged the great sage 'fundamentally unsound, sir') wrote somewhere that 'Only thoughts which come from walking have any value'. Nuanced and understated as ever - but he's onto something. I'm convinced there's an essential link between thought - in particular the processes that turn thought into words - and walking. And I suspect that the thoughts and langauge of a walking culture take different shapes from those of a sedentary culture, i.e. the one we now inhabit.
Or the one most of us do. Me I'm a pedestrian by habit, necessity, desire and conviction. I love to walk everywhere (time and distance permitting). I do not drive and never have - and there are many like me, especially in the London area, where it is possible to get by very well without a motor. We inhabit a different world - richer, more detailed, more apparent to all the senses - God knows not necessarily more pleasant, but definitely more present than the A to B blur of driving. And yet our kind of walking is scarcely acknowledged as walking. Walking, in our ever more specialised and accessorised culture, is something people dress up in hideous anorak-type things to do,and consists of following Walks through designated areas of outstanding Attractions where people Walk. Well, that's one kind of walking- but the kind of walking that my kind of pedestrians do is a very different affair - marginal, unofficial, unpretty, solitary (there are shockingly few pedestrians - more foxes than people on suburban pavements most evenings). It is, by its nature, little noticed - but there is one magnificent book that celebrates it and explores its nature, its history and its strange appeal - the great psycho-geographer Iain Sinclair's London Orbital, in which the author and a few fellow oddballs walk the badlands at the boundaries of the mega-London enclosed by the M25. It is an astonishing piece of work and I found it so enthralling I could hardly bear for it to end (and it's big). 'We're never entirely comfortable,' he writes of his band of like-minded walkers, 'about travelling through territory that is happy to have our company.' As Jeeves would say, Rem acu tetigisti.
Any thoughts? Feel free to take a walk first...


  1. Brilliant, Nige. A fellow biped traveller, I. Yes, Nietzsche a great sage but fundamentally unsound...must dip into Wodehouse again. Most thinking of worth done on foot- perhaps it's the reward for behaving as if one were an animal along with a mind, as opposed to simply an abstracted mind. Struggling to pin it down but walking in the sense that possibly only another genuine walker will understand( as opposed to someone who uses his legs from time to time) the great free/independent/individual state man can be in. Clumsily put but it'll have to do. The internal & external explorer in one misfit individual.

  2. if we accept that our physical circumstances greatly inform our psychic circumstances, then walking instead of driving or being driven must really make for very different experiences & ways of experiencing, ways of thought.

    By walking you measure the ground - your immediate contact with the world - according to your own body (your stride, your feet). You map it using yourself as measuring device. When you're walked a route you think of it as "fifteen minutes" rather than "a mile". It becomes time rather than just inert space; you have entered into space & transformed it into time, your time.

    You're also vitally aware of gravity when you walk as opposed to drive. Gravity is our central physical relation to our world. Each step is a surrendering to the world, and then a springing from it. People walk differently according to how they physically & psychically understand their unfreedom, that is their being a part of the world and bound to it, of which gravity is the most obvious expression.

    Driving by contrast is about our relation to man-made objects (cars, the road), so we inhabit the secondary world when we drive. It's also more fun to ram other drivers off the road than it is to barge pedestrians into the ditch - otherwise there'd be walking-based computer games where you get points for knocking people into lamp posts etc.

  3. wife in the sarfMay 14, 2007 10:51 am

    Have always felt the physicality of direct contact with the air, streets, playing fields, building sites around us is the only we can begin to belong in a place. Running inspires the same feeling, though not the same thinking. Perhaps as a result of thudding around my own neighbourhood I find myself wondering whether now isn't the moment, having shown us your mind, that you cave in to popular demand and show us your feet? Placing your plates on a virtual pavement may make this strange blogging exercise feel so much more like home.

  4. Wow - Andrew and Elberry - a brilliant opening pair. Thanks for yours too, Wife, but I can assure you you do not want to see my feet. You may think you do, but...
    Anyway, keep em coming - I think/hope this one has (hehe) legs.

  5. I like yout pun on the word- legs, Nige.

  6. For the last few weeks you have asked [last] or stated (first[pub owner]) where you want this blog to go.

    Playing with Nietzche/Wagner and the attendent vision, created for others. Which results, might be likened to Luthers issues with the southern german peasants, is interesting.

  7. all bad news for stephen hawking then....

    whersh, bryan? I hope he's paying you the going rate for blogsitting!

  8. Dublin is a wonderful city to walk around. It's so small and compact. I wander through it quite a lot Monday to Friday (sorry, did I say wander? Of course, I meant stride purposefully from A to B, without wasting a moment of any busy working day). There is something about the act of walking that is conducive to cognition. Don't know what it is, though (and I've covered some miles trying to work it out, believe me). What about pacing? I'm a pacer too. Back and forth I'll go (driving everyone nuts) if something is on my mind.

    Keep up the good work, Nige. You're playing a stormer.