Another in a more than occasional series, another that surfaced from a place now lost, and another that offers a pleasant surprise in being not at all what was expected.
Frédéric Gros writes A Philosophy of Walking from a position of strength. He is a professor of philosophy at two French universities, and he is a passionate walker. In fact Gros provides the most engaging and engaged observations as he struggles up hills and surveys what he has conquered, physically and metaphorically
The rest, the part that surprised me, is the walking habits of the world’s great philosophers and writers – along with the insights they’ve gained in their perambulations.
Rimbaud supplies the most poignant and anguished so far. He walked to escape his world that was impoverished on multiple levels. Reading Gros’s account, I now understand Patti Smith’s affinity for this brilliant and ultimately defeated man.
Right now I’m relishing a walk with Thoreau, filtered through the lens of the walker-philosopher Gros.
Philosophy of Walking offers elegant insights, via English translator John Howe:
Many … have written their books solely from the reading of other books, so that many books exude the stuffy odour of libraries. By what does one judge a book? By its smell (and even more as we shall see by its cadence). Its smell: far too many books have the fusty odour of reading rooms or desks.
The cadence is winning, but I disagree about the fustiness. The sweet-dry smell of old paper feels secure because it says, “Here lies a repository of every kind of idea and information. It’s here for the examining.” From there one can take the ideas and shape an entirely new world, just as one can in the open air.
The gaping hole in this work is the lack of women. Glancing references to hostesses, lovers, and mothers don’t count. No female wisdom graces the page, which creates an imbalance nothing can correct.
There are also minor problems. At one point “access” appears where “excess” is correct. A reference to “their very recent own goal,” sent this American reader to a universal translator. Turns out it’s a soccer (pardon, football) term. Don’t ask for an explanation.
Otherwise, I intend to read and walk, walk and read, knowing I’m in the company of giants.