Walking’s the thing

| June 4, 2014

An excellent interview of Frédéric Gros, author of A Philosophy of Walking.

There is, it reminds me, something tricky that happens when walking becomes a thing. In articulating the thing one never talks about, we find ourselves speaking to its other. One does not just walk, in walking one is not walking but rather not doing all those other things. This allows, of course, for a certain strategy of resistance. But it also runs the risk of creating a kind of inverted obelisk, a dark target, that organizes our resistances. Is it not telling that every articulation of walking as a strategy seems to begin with bracketing out of all of the meandering possibilities of intentional form. (I do not endorse “promenading” after all…) Can we intend to not intend? Walking thus eludes us in its formalization. We find, in walking, that we cannot simply walk. Walking is no thing, or not simply what it wishes: Walking the walk. Freedom. The unknown. Do we wish to forget all of the ways in which walking toes the line, circumscribes us? One should mention, of all of the difficulties of walking, at least the desire to stop.

The mistake would be to read in this an argument for the opposite of walking. Sedimentation? It is the binary that threatens us. But having just taught a course on the theory and practice of urban drifting, I am struck by the ways in which we delineate walking in the very gestures that attempt to free it up for something. Even slyly knowing this ahead of time is no release. What is one thinking, after all, in treating this as a course? Except to see that education itself has always had a long relation to walking the course. I will not dwell on this now, but keep walking.

Perhaps what bothers me, is how little those who talk of walking seem to talk of the action of walking. As if they were plodders, or amounting to the same thing, striders. (See how we distinguish? If we know a person at a distance easily by their walk, this is only the beginning of the dilemma…) Gate analysis is the crass category for attending to such things. The long legacy of dissection that treats walking as no-where. Freeze frame. Tread mills. It is against this that we set out. Shod in comfortable shoes or hiking boots, we put one foot in front of the other, and cover some ground. After all, we learned to walk long ago. More or less. The rest is moving forward. More or less.