-- by Tom Phillips
“Sometimes I wonder what I’m a-gonna do,
But there ain’t no cure for the Summertime Blues.”
-- Eddie Cochran
Ever since I was a teenager I have suffered from the Summertime Blues – the aimlessless, hopelessness, boredom and loneliness that result from long days of humid heat, and the collapse of the structures of ordinary time. What are you going to do?
This summer I stumbled on an answer. Browsing in my favorite bookstore, the Labyrinth on
112th Street, I came across a new work by a French philosopher, Frederic Gros, called “A Philosophy of Walking.” I’ve always been a walker – for transportation, exercise, and mental hygiene – but I never thought of this humble activity as a way of life, as a meaningful act in itself.
Gros treats it that way. “Walking is not a sport,” he begins. He writes about famous thinkers and writers for whom it was the essential activity: Rousseau walked to recover his original, uncorrupted humanity; Rimbaud walked to escape, to move on, to exhaust his body and mind. Wordsworth walked to feel the natural rhythms of poetry. Thoreau walked through the woods to simplify his existence, Nietzsche climbed mountains to drive his thought to its peaks. Kant walked for discipline, and to relieve his constipation. Gandhi walked for independence, for peace and freedom.
Inspired, I tried organizing my life around walking. And I found that three walks a day can relieve aimlessness, hopelessness, boredom and loneliness, and yield great benefits beyond.