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.  :-)

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