Monday, 10 October 2011

Pedestrian Thinking

I guess the speed of travel most of us have experienced these days has led to the negative connotations of the word 'pedestrian'.  Slow, pedantic, plodding, unadventurous.

I remain a very keen walker.  I still like public transport for long journeys, of course, I don't want to remain restricted to how far I can walk in a day.   So trains and boats and planes have figured in my own travel, and now I have a bus pass I often don't walk to work.

And yet, and yet...  Walking speed still seems like a great way to explore a new city, an excellent way to think and mull over ideas, an excellent way to calm down when angry or sad.

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.      Friedrich Nietzsche

I often come across references, in biographies of composers, poets, and other artists, to the joys of walking.

Of course, many of them predate the car, so the options of horse-riding, or carriages, were rather more limited, and perhaps less conducive to thinking.   When walking the dog I can't drift off in thought, as I need to remain alert to his mood, and to his interactions with other dogs and people. The bumpy ride of a carriage might equally well prevent thinking clearly.
Even in terms of health, walking remains the best option.  Fads come and go, like jogging (but then you get shin splints), or running, or cycling, but the truly primitive exercise, as old as the upright gait, remains walking.   You might run after game, or run away from danger, but I consider running as an exception, whereas walking seems so basic.  You can do it briskly, or strolling, but you can go for hours without stress to the body.
I deliberately abstained from driving, to allow myself day-dreaming. Having said that, proficient drivers seem perfectly able to think while the autopilot drives.  I don't know. Never tried.  All I know is, a mistake when walking into a lamp-post doesn't seem to have such serious consequences as driving into one!

I decided to check out when 'pedestrian' came to acquire negative connotations.  Surprisingly I found references in the OED going as far back as the 18th century. Bang goes the car theory.  :-)

Thursday, 6 October 2011


I missed this year's MLA get-together face-to-face (a great experience for online friends, which I recommend).

This year, sombunall of the crew met up in Prague.

Flashing back to the Paris meet-up, here you can see/hear John Giorno talking about the death of William Burroughs (we came across it in the Beat section of the Traces du Sacré exhibition) -

I still really enjoy travelling about to be able to share a variety of experiences with friends in real time.

Text from John Giorno:

William died on August 2, 1997, Saturday at 6:30 in the afternoon from complications from a massive heart attack he'd had the day before. He was 83 years old. I was with William Burroughs when he died, and it was one of the best times I ever had with him.
Doing Tibetan Nyingma Buddhist meditation practices, I absorbed William's consciousness into my heart. It seemed as a bright white light, blinding but muted, empty. His consiousness passing through me. A gentle shooting star came in my heart and up the central channel, and out the top of my head to a pure field of great clarity and bliss. It was very powerful - William Burroughs resting in great equanimity, and the vast empty expanse of primordial wisdom mind.
I was staying in William's house, doing my meditation practices for him, trying to maintain good conditions and dissolve any obstacles that might be arising for him at that very moment in the bardo. Now, I had to do it for him.