How to Take a Walk

by Venkat on August 9, 2010

It was cool and mildly breezy around 8 PM today. So I went for a walk, and I noticed something. Though I passed a couple of hundred people, nobody else was taking a walk. There were people returning from work, people going places with purpose-laden bags, people running, people going to the store, people sipping slurpies.  But nobody taking a walk. Young women working their phones, but not taking a walk. People walking their dogs, or pushing a stroller, with the virtuous air of one performing a chore for the benefit of another, but not themselves taking a walk. I was the only one taking a walk. The closest activity to “taking a walk” that I encountered was two people walking together and forgetting, for a moment, to talk to each other. The moment passed. One of them said something and they slipped back into talking rather than taking a walk.

My observation surprised me, and I tried to think back to other walks. I take a lot of walks, so there are a lot of memories to comb through. In my 13 years of taking walks in the United States, I could remember only ever seeing one native-born American taking a walk. All other examples I could remember were clearly immigrants. Middle-aged eastern European matrons strolling. Old Chinese men walking slowly with their hands behind their backs.  Even elderly Americans don’t seem to take walks the way elderly immigrants do. They walk slowly, but they look like they’re doing it for the exercise. They often look resentfully at young runners.

It is not hard to take a walk. The right shoes are the ones nearest the door. The right clothes are the ones you happen to be wearing. You will not sweat. You may need a jacket if it is cold, or an umbrella if it is raining.  If you pass anybody, you are not walking slowly enough for it to be “taking a walk.” If you need to make up a nominal purpose like “get more bananas from the store” you are not taking a walk.

Taking walks is the entry drug into the quiet, solitary heaven of idleness (the next level up is “sitting on a bench without a view”). For modern Americans, idleness is a shameful, private indulgence.  If they attempt it in public, they are stricken by social anxiety. They seem to fear that the slow, solitary, and obviously purposeless amble that marks “taking a walk” signals social incompetence or a life unacceptably adrift. If a shopping bag, gym bag, friend or dog cannot be manufactured, nominal non-idleness must be signaled through an ostentatious “I have friends” phone call, or email-checking. If all else fails, hands must be placed defiantly in pockets, to signal a brazen challenge to anyone who dares look askance at you, “Yeah, I’m takin’ a walk! You got a problem with that?”

In America, visible idleness is a luxury for the homeless,  the delinquent and immigrants.  The defiantly tautological protest, “I have a life,” is quintessentially American. The American life does not exist until it is filled up.

Even a pause at a bench must be justified by a worthwhile view or a chilled drink.

Worthwhile. Now, there’s an American word. Worth-while. Worth-your-while. The time value of money. Someone recently remarked that the iPad has lowered the cost of waiting. Americans everywhere heaved a sigh of relief, as their collective social anxiety dipped slightly. The rest of the world groaned just a little bit.

The one American I remember seeing taking a walk was Tom Hales, then a professor at the University of Michigan. He was teaching the differential geometry course I was auditing that semester. One dark, solitary Friday, while the rest of America was desperately trying to demonstrate to itself that it had a life, I was taking a walk in an empty, desolate part of the campus. I saw Hales taking a walk on the other side of the street. He did not look like he was pondering Deep Matters. He merely looked like he was taking a walk.

That year he proved the Kepler conjecture, a famous unsolved problem dating back to 1611. A beautifully pointless problem about how to stack balls. I like to think that Kepler  must have enjoyed taking walks too.

[Addendum: A fascinating discussion of this post has developed on Hacker News]

tubelite August 9, 2010 at 6:54 pm

@nntaleb is certainly your evil twin :)
I remember him tweeting about this… ah, here it is:
If you need to listen to music while walking, don’t walk; and don’t listen to music.
Modernity inflicts a sucker narrative on activities: now we “walk for exercise” not “walk” no justification; for hidden existential reason
You EXIST if & only if you are free to do things without a visible objective, with no justification &, above all, no narrative.

Venkat August 10, 2010 at 4:18 am

“Evil twin” is right. I use the same reasoning to conclude that there ALWAYS is a narrative. The take-a-walk people just have ironic ones :)

I like narratives. It’s just the unexamined default ones that cause trouble.

Dan August 9, 2010 at 7:27 pm

very cool topic…. walking is my most creative time, I do one daily (the luxuries of being an expat!)…. Nietzsche was famous for his walks glamorizes the whole thing for me.

Scott August 9, 2010 at 8:52 pm

The last time I took a walk one night I walked about 12 miles along sidewalks from 7pm to 1am.

During that time there was no one outside of their homes. I saw cars parked in driveways and TVs flickering. I passed two perfectly manicured playgrounds at which not a single child was present.

I passed a single person, a black guy who was also out for a walk. He looked at me, I looked at him. We smiled. No one said a word, it was understood that neither of us had passed anyone else in our long walks.

The next few times I tried to take a walk after that, the police stopped my and interrogated me. What is my name? What am I doing? Where is my ID? Why don’t I have any with me? Why am I not cooperating? What am I trying to hide? Finally I was arrested and taken in for questioning. After calling my attorney (which ended up costing my about $1000) I was released without charges.

If you are walking down the sidewalk, that is now evidence a crime has been committed. You are a criminal for doing this. Walking on the sidewalks in America is not permitted.

Venkat August 10, 2010 at 4:22 am

Seriously? Arrested?

I am not sure if you are kidding, but I believe that could happen, since I once had a similar experience. I was taking a walk, and there was a black guy walking about 50 yards ahead of me. A cop car quietly sidled up to me and the guy asked me, “Sir, are you with that man over there?” I said no, and they went ahead and stopped him and started questioning him. No idea what that was about.

I am reminded of the first Rambo movie, where the sheriff arrests Rambo randomly for vagrancy.

Venkat

Nick Luft August 12, 2010 at 4:41 am

“In this story we encounter Leonard Mead, a citizen of a television-centered world in A.D. 2052. In the city, roads have fallen into decay and people only leave their homes during the day, staying home at night to watch TV. It is revealed that Mead enjoys walking through the city during the night, something which no one else does. On one of his usual walks he encounters a robotic police car. It is the only police unit in a city of three million, since the purpose of law enforcement has disappeared with everyone watching TV at night. The police car struggles to understand why Mr. Mead would be out walking for no reason and decides to take him to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pedestrian

Carlos August 14, 2010 at 7:17 pm

This is basically a ripoff of most of what Clarisse says in Fahrenheit 451.

“I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly. If you showed a driver a green blur, Oh yes! he’d say, that’s grass! A pink blur! That’s a rose garden! White blurs are houses. Brown blurs are cows. My uncle drove slowly on a highway once. He drove forty miles per hour and they jailed him for two days. Isn’t that funny, and sad, too?”

David August 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm

You are exactly correct!!! We no longer live in a “Free” society!

Chris August 9, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Whilst I agree with you in spirit, I sincerely doubt that you really didn’t see anyone else idling – as long as we understand idling to be the state of allowing your mind to wander wherever it likes, of doing something purely for the pleasure of doing it (walking, sitting, reading poetry …) and of generally being aimless. One of the joys of idling is that it’s hard for other people to spot that you’re doing it – I am idling when I take a walk, when I sit alone in a coffee shop, when I stand on my balcony staring out at nothing, when I read a book for fun, and when I take a long run (as I did this morning).

Sometimes my idling is interrupted by an errand that pops into my mind (“oh, I meant to buy bananas – I might get them from that store there”) or by a new idea that I want to scribble down so that I can ponder it in more depth later. Such is the nature of aimless thought. If I buy bananas, and carry them home with me, has that stopped me from idling?

Venkat August 10, 2010 at 4:24 am

I will allow for a “serendipitous bananas” exception case :)

Andrew August 10, 2010 at 8:51 am

“Serendipitous bananas” sounds like a great band name !

Kitt August 9, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Thanks for the reminder. Shoes on, heading outside now.

David Haywood Smith August 10, 2010 at 12:18 am

Great post! It reminded me of a quote:

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”

– Seneca

Priyankaa August 10, 2010 at 12:28 am

It only reinstates my belief that when you are ideal, creativity breads. A lot of people don’t want to be ideal because think they will get bored. I think, it’s when you are by yourself, that you can sometimes be the best!

Chris August 10, 2010 at 12:29 am

I wish I was more ideal. I think of it as something to aim for. In an almost tautological sense.

Mike Walsh August 10, 2010 at 3:51 am

I liked this post. I agree that we are too obsessed with keeping busy, keeping ourselves from allowing our minds to wander. I often take walks but I have to confess they do accomplish two goals so I think they miss your point but let me try to explain anyway…

I am not in the best of shape and I know that walking, at any pace, is beneficial to my body. So I will often spend my lunch time at work just walking. I am by myself, not focusing on “one more step for exercise”, etc. but just walking around and allowing myself to ponder whatever comes to mind. As a Christian this pondering sometimes turns to thoughts on God’s creation around me, observations of people around me, sometimes prayers for them or myself. As a father it sometimes turns to remembering something funny one of my young kids said the night before. As a husband it sometimes turns to panic at that thing I promised my wife I would do but forgot ;-) . Sadly, as a Database Administrator sometimes my mind even wanders to some problem at work. Usually though, I’m just taking in what I see.

I don’t know if that qualifies as your idea of idleness but when I come back I am refreshed, my head is empty of some of the busyness that was in it and I am ready to tackle new problems

Venkat August 10, 2010 at 4:39 am

I think idleness extends to letting your mind wander, so you are duly certified as ‘walk taker’ :)

Too-earnest people can turn every walk into a deliberately meditative chore. I have no such rules. If an obsessive thought hijacks my head during a walk, so be it. If I am naturally tired and thoughts aren’t sticking, so be it. If emptiness happens naturally, so be it. If I am taking a walk and thinking about work or a blog post I might write about the walk itself, the earnest meditation types will complain that I am not “in the moment.” Who cares? Enlightenment can wait on idleness like everything else :)

Working at controlling thoughts while taking a walk is for monks. For the rest of us, the mind can take an aimless walk through its neighborhoods while the feet are doing the same.

Venkat

David the lynx August 10, 2010 at 4:23 am

I take walks on a daily basis and am a fairly focused, productive, consultant.

It can be hard to pull oneself away from work, but I’ve found that on walks, I often come up with very good ideas – so it’s totally been worth it from my perspective.

Plus its good for your health!

alexander August 10, 2010 at 4:56 am

I always appreciated when I was a kid that my mother would be observably more calm and agreeable after she took a walk every day. Now I find that if I go for a few days without walking to work and back (about 4km each way) that I will wake up with the sun and almost unconsciously put my shoes on and go out and walk for an hour or more. As addictions go I think I’ve stumbled on a pretty good one.

Greg Kovacs August 10, 2010 at 4:57 am

So how does “taking a drive” qualify? An even bigger spit in the face of the ever-hurrying-to-somewhere society or an utterly pointless burning of fuel?

Venkat August 10, 2010 at 5:21 am

I admit I’ve taken my share of random drives. Definitely counts. As for ‘pointless burning of fuel’ who’s to say? Possibly it is that extra trip to the store for more useless stuff that will eventually get thrown away unused that is the waste?

Fuel savings has always been a practical rather than moral issue for me. The clearer it gets that we can’t avoid an oil shock, the more I lean towards, “get your share while the gettin’ is good”

Callous. I know. I am a bad person. Let’s burn down the bloody rain forests while we’re at it :)

Kedar August 10, 2010 at 4:57 am

Nice article! But then again, even you were not taking a walk. You were future-(micro)blogging. Maybe we should all read http://www.amazon.com/Light-Color-Outdoors/dp/0387979352/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281444977&sr=1-2

Venkat August 10, 2010 at 5:17 am

Already pre-empted your objection, heh! See my response to Mike Walsh.

See also: this xkcd strip

Evan Kaufman August 10, 2010 at 6:29 am

I’m a native-born American and I could not agree with you more. I often find myself getting stir-crazy at work, something you can’t avoid when you sit at a desk all day. As a result, I take a lot of walks downtown during the day, and it helps to relax and get my blood pumping at the same time.

I also like to take walks through the suburbs (where I live) at night, anywhere between 10pm and 3am. It may sound strange, but at that time of night when there’s no one else out, it’s extremely therapeutic. It’s like having the entire world to yourself.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman August 10, 2010 at 6:42 am

Interesting read. I would start taking walks again.

Christian Molick August 10, 2010 at 7:47 am

And it has been getting worse. My favorite discussion of the need for open, unallocated moments is “No Time To Think” on Google Tech Talks:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHGcvj3JiGA

Blake August 10, 2010 at 8:26 am

As I started reading this, I was actually thinking, you need to get more time with people from/in a Midwest culture. People walk just to take a walk all the time, stopping at neighbors to chat briefly along the way. And sure enough, the one time you saw some one just taking a walk was in Ann Arbor, a few miles down the bustling highway from where I’m located in Lansing.

There’s a reason why so many of us don’t move out to the coasts, even with the lure of more opportunity and higher-paying jobs. We know what it means to just take a walk, and we rather enjoy doing so.

Good post.

Geoffrey Anderson August 10, 2010 at 8:57 am

Great post. I travel internationally and domestically a lot. I often will just walk. Some of my best walks have been in Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore, Thailand, Paris, Munich and Amsterdam.

I never need an excuse, and being alone is not an issue. I love getting out and seeing some of the color of the locales.

Sadly, many cities in the US that I visit are not amenable to a good old fashioned walk. Whether they are designed for automobile access, or was just poorly planned sprawl, we lack something that older, medieval European cities just have at their core.

Geoff

wilbur August 10, 2010 at 9:40 am

We all bow before your cultural superiority. Moving to the Lake District might be a good idea. Please tell us in more detail how to judge whether or not someone moving about on two legs is going on a walk.

Kay August 10, 2010 at 11:09 am

There is possibly a synthesis.

Last year I worked at home and made a two hour break for a walk at 2pm – every day. I felt that was optimal for me and I can imagine doing this ritual walk-break for the rest of my life. About 15 minutes from home there is a small supermarket I regularly visited on the last section. One could argue here that I took a 90 minutes detour to go to the supermarket or the other way round that I occasionally combined the practical with the pleasure, which is the I way I perceived it; but I was prepared and took a small backpack with me.

DT August 10, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Went for a walk after midnight along State street in Provo/Orem (UT) and a police car was slowly following me for some time, staying behind me. Then they had to make a u-turn to chase a midnight racer. But I can see how someone who looks like he’s just walking around at night and not trying to get anywhere specific can look suspicious. I certainly felt like I was doing something wrong. Walking around without being busy is suspicious behavior.

Robert August 12, 2010 at 11:33 am

What you did wrong was to be in Provo/Orem. I would say “get out before it’s too late,” but only because that’s what I did. If you can last more than 8 months in that place, you’re a stronger person than me.

From conversations with officers, the police usually wait to see if someone runs (or tries to avoid them) before taking action. Just walking shouldn’t be a problem.

Daniel August 10, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Music while walking?

frobozz August 11, 2010 at 12:28 am

Why is being the slowest person around a condition of “taking a walk”?

anthony August 11, 2010 at 1:52 am

most (some?) indian languages have an expression that is almost exactly equivalent to ‘taking the air’. a literal translation is to ‘eat or consume the air’. the whole point of taking a walk is to simply breathe in the outdoors air. another nice expression in my native tongue is to ‘loosen the legs’ – a slightly more goal-oriented undertaking than merely breathing. going for a stroll is probably not an american specialty though i guess thoreau might disagree.

Mike Thomas August 11, 2010 at 2:21 am

I am writing to ask for your permission to include your posts on
DCguide.com and include a link to your blog in our directory. We would
include a link back to your blog fully crediting you for your work
along with a profile about you listed on DCguide.com . Please let us
know as soon as possible.

Mike@dcguide.com

Mike Thomas
Editor-in-Chief
DCguide.com

Venkat August 11, 2010 at 6:34 am

Mike:

You can add a link in your directory, and short extracts of DC-relevant posts with links, but not the complete text of posts.

Venkat

Nick Luft August 12, 2010 at 4:44 am

There is a wonderful word for walking with no particular purpose. It is “bimbling”.

A gentle, meandering walk with no particular haste or purpose.
verb (bimbles, bimbling, bimbled, bimbled)
(intransitive) To walk with no particular haste or purpose.

Christopher G August 12, 2010 at 8:16 am

You took such a nice subject, and by the end it just felt ugly. I wouldn’t call it necessarily ‘bigoted’, but it’s somewhere on the axis between that and innocent.

Come to Denver, pick any hour of the day, pick almost any area of downtown, and you will see plenty of people out for a ‘promenade’. Many ages, many social classes. I know because I’m out there walking, and I run into them.

Or go to my home state of South Dakota, and pick any small town you like, any evening. People are out, moving at their own pace, and not ‘directed’ to anything in particular.

I walk to breath. I walk for philosophy. I walk to feel finally that I exist. And now I need a walk after this frustrating, unnecessary, and uninformed insult.

Venkat August 12, 2010 at 9:58 am

Flamed for a post about walking, who’d have thunk :)

Sorry if it offended you. I am sure there are many pockets in America with a great walking culture.

Christopher G August 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Fine, be a baby and play innocent. Or own up to the fact that you had your own flame burning when you wrote this.

Hemant Puthli August 15, 2010 at 3:59 am

Great post! Apropos of iPad and idleness and all that, I was reminded of this article: http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2010/06/why-i-returned-my-ipad.html which deals with a related theme – boredom.

Venkat August 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Excellent find. Someone said that the iPad is a ‘deeply cynical’ device. This article reinforces that point. Cynical in the sense that Apple may have designed the optimal device to hooks some not-so-nice addiction centers in our brains: addiction to self-sought passive busyness and stress through consumption-stimulation.

I think the capacity for enjoying boredom and choosing it over activity and stimulation is the black belt stage on this spectrum of idleness we are talking about.

Or maybe, we should call our baseline lives ‘black belt’ and call it an unlearning spectrum where white belt is boredom capacity. Walking would be the first unlearning stage from black to brown belt :)

Mike Walsh August 15, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I commented earlier because I agree a good mindless walk is perfect for us at times. Letting our mind wander to whatever we want or even to “nothing” (if that is even possible) is healthy and important. I agree there wholeheartedly.

But on re-reading more of the comment thread, re-reading the post with a different lens and then seeing this comment, I felt convicted to add one more comment.

On a few points –

Spectrum of Idleness? What is that anyway? Now my world view is that of a Christian and on that front I have to say that we weren’t created for idleness. It is fine to have idle times but as a chief aim? How bland and purposeless, no?

Black Belt (or “white belt” looking at it from the cute “unlearning” perspective) level of idleness as a chief goal? To what end?

We have, if we live to our life expectancy, 70-90 or so years on this planet. I agree from the perspective that as we grow we should learn to be less bothered by the silly mundane that we are often all consumed with. I agree that we shouldn’t allow trivial issues to grip us with anger or fear or worry. I even agree that we shouldn’t be so busy that we, to borrow a common phrase, forget to stop and smell the roses. I think living a purposeful life should include not getting bogged down with task lists that keep you plugged in and running 16-20 hours a day, each day.

If that is what you are saying, then I’ll give you an Amen. If you are asking we make idleness a priority and put it as chief importance then I have to take that back :)

As for where I am after 31 years of living on this planet, I can say that I am working towards being less busy. To that end I am all for unlearning some of the horrible traits I have been convicted of (Cringing when I haven’t checked e-mail in a day, who am I kidding – 2 hours not a day, trying to make sure I am doing “something” every waking hour, worrying about work when I am at home, worrying about unfinished home busy work when I am at work) before you posted this post (so the timing is great). I want to add idleness into my life but I have to admit I have a secret purpose for that idleness… I want to grow closer to God. I want to not be so busy that I miss what He wills for my life. I want to be be not so busy that I miss an opportunity to share my personal testimony and what Jesus Christ has done in my life with someone. I want to enjoy each moment of my children’s childhood. I want to truly cherish my wife and time just sitting quietly with her when we have moments to ourselves to go for a walk, eat some food or even go for a “sunday drive”.

But be idle for idleness’s sake? I don’t know. I’d actually say that would be a sad desire and a sad existence. Back before I was a Christian I had “evolving” ideas of what “this” is all about.. The thought of ideleness “just because” brings me back to when I read a lot of Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, etc. Looking back that was a pretty pathetic point of my life when I had the (what I thought at the time was an intellectually superior) view that “we exist.. No reason… We’ll die -anhilation… No point to it all, suicide is weak so just deal with it…” Silly how I thought that was somehow intellectually superior at the time, looking back.

Go for the idleness for sure (and a lot more of it!) Curse the distraction these devices we are glued to provide (and a lot more!) but just don’t do it as a chief aim, you were created for more.

:-)

Maureen O'Brien June 28, 2011 at 7:50 pm

St. Thomas Aquinas, a busy guy and a religious guy who was notably close to God, commented on humor and relaxation in his commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics ideas….

“As bodily tiredness is eased by resting the body, so tiredness of the soul is eased by resting the soul… the remedy for weariness of soul lies in slackening the tension of mental study and enjoying some pleasure.”

And then he told a story from Cassian about St. John the Evangelist, who related that if a person never relaxed, he would snap like a bowstring that you kept firing continuously. He also opined that not relaxing or having any sense of humor was “against reason”.

The problem with our society is that many relaxing pastimes have gotten to be so routine or continuous or filled with choices and backlog, that they aren’t relaxing anymore. Hence idleness increases in value.

Nick Luft June 29, 2011 at 4:43 am

A surfeit of leisure!

Leading to a pursuit of utter idleness or extreme deprivations.

I think I should be less things and do them better and with more intensity. Too much stimulation leaves no time for contemplation and savouring.

Hemant Puthli August 15, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Thanks for your response! Baselines, like frames of reference, could be drawn anywhere. After all, who says “North” is the same as “Up”? It’s all relative. Talking about moral minimalism also makes me think about moral relativism but more about that some other time.

On yet another related note, there’s something called the ‘Slow Movement’ whose virtues I have extolled here: http://hyperactivexs.blogspot.com/2009/02/slow-down-quick.html

Incidentally, the idea of setting out on a walk with no specific purpose is a bit paradoxical, isn’t it? I mean – the purpose is already embedded within the thought itself!

Venkat August 15, 2010 at 2:18 pm

But be idle for idleness’s sake? I don’t know. I’d actually say that would be a sad desire and a sad existence. Back before I was a Christian I had “evolving” ideas of what “this” is all about.. The thought of ideleness “just because” brings me back to when I read a lot of Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, etc. Looking back that was a pretty pathetic point of my life when I had the (what I thought at the time was an intellectually superior) view that “we exist.. No reason… We’ll die -anhilation… No point to it all, suicide is weak so just deal with it…” Silly how I thought that was somehow intellectually superior at the time, looking back.

I think we may have had similar trajectories up to a point. I liked Camus, said “Hmm… too complicated” to Sartre, quite liked Kierkegaard’s “Christianity must be true because it is the most absurd” argument, but at some point I guess I took the Nietzschean “God is dead” route rather than your route towards religiosity.

I doubt this basic fork in the philosophical road has anything to do with “intellectually superiority” (though Nietzsche of course had his ubermensch idea, but that’s not about superiority really). This is the realm of metaphysics, and I guess I applied a narrowly scientific Ockham’s razor and went with the simplest explanation: there is no point.

So yes, I do think striving for idleness for the sake of idleness is a very worthwhile life goal. Religiosity and industry DO go together, so it does not surprise me that you differ :).

“we exist.. No reason… We’ll die -annihilation… No point to it all, suicide is weak so just deal with it…” after living with it for a while, and refining it (you do continue evolving on my side of the fork in the road too), this isn’t such a bad philosophy if you use Bob Hope’s version: “Eternal nothingness isn’t so bad if you’re dressed right for it.”

Or to put a more positive spin on it, since there is no point to it, any point you care to make up is fine, so long as you don’t hurt others. Which means idleness is a pretty fine point. I have no problem with admitting that I do aspire to the life of do-nothing leisure. I just need to make enough money to sustain that first.

Venkat

Venkat

Trav August 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm

I wish everyone in the world was iq 140 (lest assume incorrectly that IQ is a robust proxy of intelligence) and above….

Or at least a head-to-toe genius government……

There would be a lot more walking in that kind of world.

Perhaps there would be no need to walk in that world because the intellectual fortitude would be omnipresent.

First winds of Spring last night in Brisbane (Australia). Walking on a beach at night with spring wind is the best.

Priya Mann August 17, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Hemant,
Interesting read! I came to NYC 5 years back and wrote to my mother about the hustle bustle around 51st street where I used to stay. I wrote to her that I was on couple of occasions scorned at because I seemingly interrupted the bullet speed at which some of my co walkers were walking.
So many years here, I have not forgotten the lost art of walking- ‘tehelna’ as we call it in India.
But thanks for putting together your feelings in words :)

anthony August 19, 2010 at 11:04 pm

venkatesh,

http://www.amazon.com/Songlines-Bruce-Chatwin/dp/0140094296/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1282287629&sr=8-1

songlines by bruce chatwin is the sort of book you’ll probably enjoy.

chatwin argues that man is genetically predisposed to keep moving, and walking is his most natural state.

PAULA E HERITAGE September 13, 2010 at 9:57 pm

I walk everywhere I can because I find it easier to think and problem solve. I thought I was walking, and I have noticed people from other parts of the world walking very slowly and I have wondered why? I could not imagine walking that slowly because I always have to be doing something even if it is noticing my breathing during meditation. Tommorow , I will attempt to actually take a walk. I will probably have to work at it! Ha ha

Alexandre Aquiles October 21, 2010 at 7:19 pm

The French have a word for people “who walk the city in order to experience it” : http://goo.gl/Rrs1

Surio January 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I recently wrote of The bare necessities, Calvinism and the “Anti-Work” movement.

I felt it complements some of the thoughts and ideas raised in this post and the comments. :-)

Joel February 23, 2011 at 1:16 am

It’s not pointless at all. It has important consequences for materials science, in that atoms (especially metallic ones) tend to pack together densely in a fashion resembling hard spheres, with minimum energy corresponding to maximum packing density.

If you look at a periodic table, you’ll see a lot of “fcc” and “hcp”; it’s good to know exactly why that should be so. (Some metals, and many non-metals, have modes of bonding that favor different numbers of neighbors than those two lattices offer.)

I take a lot of walks, and I’m a 5th-generation American. I guess my family isn’t typical, though.

Greg Linster June 28, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I recently discovered Ribbon Farm via the “A Brief History of the Corporation: 1600 to 2100″ post and wanted to let you know that I’m really enjoying your writing Venkat.

I didn’t learn “how to take walk” until several years ago. My life has, however, changed dramatically ever since the moment I realized I was doing something wrong. As such, this essay really resonates with me.

Juan Rodriguez June 12, 2012 at 11:25 pm

I just got back from taking my first real walk. It was literally a dark and stormy night. At first, I felt like “taking a walk,” with no end goal in mind, was somehow an immoral thing to do, but eventually these feelings yielded to a vague sense of calm and clarity of thought. In this country, many of us are instilled (from an early age) with the sense that idleness itself is a crime, you know? Sometimes I wonder who we mantain this world for, if not ourselves. What’s wrong with admiring all the things we build, once in a while, ya know?

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