“To walk because it is good for you warps the soul, just as it warps the soul for a man to talk for hire or because he think it his duty.”
Perhaps Belloc exaggerates—something to which he was prone. But it raises a great question: why should one walk?
Walking of course can have many utilitarian purposes, and I for one certainly would encourage walking, for instance, for the sake of staying in good shape. In an age where we tend to be too sedentary, walking can be a healthy and rejuvenating antidote.
But there is walking as an exercise, and then there is simply walking. For its own sake.
How better to be alone? And likewise, how better to be together?
After a meal one might say: “Let’s go for a walk!” Presumably the others at the meal will not say: “Why would we do that?” or “Yes, of course, I need a little cardiovascular workout!”
Walking is simply something to do. It is such a privilege, and a gift. You can’t put your finger on exactly why. But somehow when you are walking—not to go somewhere or to achieve something in particular, but simply walking—you experience being alive in a unique way.
The world around us becomes our home. I am walking through my world, and with every step there is something to discover, or simply to relish again.
When we are walking–whether simply a post-meal stroll, or a turn about the neighborhood or local park, or a hike in the foothills–our problems are put at a distance, and they are given a context. They need not rule my day or my life. Right now I, or we, am walking. Not running from the world, we are walking in it, gaining new perspective with every step.
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This is the third in a series: What To Do This Summer.
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), born of a French father and English mother, was a poet, historian, and essayist.