Sunday, 4 May 2014

Purposeless walking

A very mainstream article on The slow death of purposeless walking surprised me.

First this was such an urban-fed and middle class idea. The very meat and drink of the colour supplement (in its online form in this case). Has the writer had to walk to dead-end work or rubbish school or anywhere? Day after day. Had nothing to come home to. Had no home? Lived in the country and had to walk everywhere. Walked to hitchhike? Has the writer had nothing else to do? If you cannot afford to pay for entertainment or shelter walking is an end itself keeping you warm and with at least the promise that something will turn up. And you can own the space you make if nothing else.

But second has the writer not investigated the artistic practice of any modern writers or artists - he quotes the usual suspects Emerson and Wordsworth but somehow that is where such articles always end their investigations. You don't however have to look further than Robert MacFarlane's equally mainstream (from a Borders' viewpoint) The old ways which contains a whole chapter on the purposeless walk - which has a name in Scotland - stravaiging. And some insight into artists and writers gleaning ideas - or any thinkers- using the structure and space of a walk; a mathematical shape to frame or reveal or draw up ideas.

One day this process might have a mechanical or digital embodiment but for now walks come cheap and plentiful. So this is why we see an attempt to market them; brand them with an identity that can then be sold back to us. I expect next the arrival of the purposeless walk shoe.

Until then, you can read the BBC article here or find out more about Robert MacFarlane's book here,

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