Friday, May 28, 2010

striving and striding


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“Walking around,
You know I’ve had enough of this trouble
following me high and low.
Now it can go.”

~ The Innocence Mission, Walking Around


As with most weekday mornings en route to work, the postmaster and I exchanged greetings. “How’s it going,” I asked. This time, Jim replied with “I’d complain, but I won’t.” My immediate response was, “we each have a place to go.” A bit of work is a slice of sustenance. Having a place to go draws implications beyond the utilitarian trudge. As one’s work is a destination, so is a walk. Some people tell me going for a walk with no purpose is pointless. I must differ; indeed a meaningless stroll has great purpose. Less is more. From carefree jacketless jaunts to heavily-equipped winter expeditions, I remain deeply grateful for my mobility. Rather than appearing as obstacles, weather and terrain provide ingredients for the adventure. The paths of my upbringing wove through large, multidimensional cities. As a child, my grandmother and I would promener (go walking) together through our Arrondissement (the 17th); she would soften day-old bread with water for us to break off morsels to feed the birds.

Going for a walk, of any length, is a break out of the box. A taking to a trail away from the rutted roads of repeated routine. A means of escape? Perhaps; but if so, this is the necessary kind to re-engage the marches of time. A good walk comprises motion to slow things down. Just as going out with a camera to create a sense of a scene that draws your attention. An observation stops the pace, changes vantage point, and preserves an image. Teaching photo students, I’ll often say, “be a tourist in your own town.” Notice places familiar and changed. Turning corners and traversing roadways, thoughts will change- even opinions. As the mind diverts, what is cherished comes to the fore. Simmering the questions, strolls test and revise perspective. Blending the mind’s ingredients, an outdoor walk resembles the randomness of dreams. Notice how birds glide from tree to tree.


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With paces preferring manageable paths, balance comes to mind. Striding and striving, often forcing matters becomes counterproductive. To strive, in this context, is to unnecessarily struggle and overattempt. To walk is to entertain patience. Aperch on a bench, amidst a city thoroughfare, the elements remind me to not be irritated by things removed from my control. Excessive striving is no friend of a good effort. We get accustomed to being so compelled as to force every detail into shape- and then to vigilantly guard these interests. How about an endeavor not to excessively exert? “Be paced, poised, and avoid burnout,” I mused while waiting to cross a street. Varying views change frames of mind.

There is middle ground between leaving things to be as they are (or as they develop), and constantly looking to adapt them (even compulsively). The latter viewpoint fixates upon the next thing. I’d be the last to advocate complacency; at the same time there is a worthwhile awakening in the consideration that one cannot get blood from a turnip. The preferable path sidesteps resignation, yet knows repose. The ancient gem, “study to be quiet,” originated in Paul’s criticism of materialistic and empire-building emphases among elites of ancient Greek society.

“Our dignity is tied to our ability to be thinking beings,” wrote Pascal. For me, this translates as the capability of conscientiousness. To think for oneself is to do so unabashedly- without façade. Technology and tools to be as gladly used as put away, giving priority to simplicity. Getting outside, away from the “virtual,” encourages continuation of cultivating skills that require thought and dexterity. When it can be done, easing the pace opens a view to observe treasures immediately at hand- and the trove may be that very midst itself.

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6 comments:

Joe V said...

Wonderful words, they remind me that I need to take the time to compose and consider.

I also liked your photographs. Thank you.

~Joe

lissa said...

you bring out a good point there -"Going for a walk, of any length, is a break out of the box." It really is quite different from anything else. I don't think people walk enough, they depend on many modes of transportation such as cars, trains, buses - those sort speeds up the day, I think but sometimes they are necessary

I think there is no real randomness in walking, rather it's a linear movement toward somewhere I might want to be but haven't quite decided on

Anne said...

The picture that begins this post is wonderful! As I just returned from a stroll through my neighborhood, this post makes me smile in gratitude for my ability to move freely about. I am so grateful for lovely weather that makes walking so pleasurable, while at the same time, allows my mind to wander where it will along with my feet, without having to focus on staying dry or warm.

There is nothing like a little physical exertion from walking to relieve the push of stress and allow for a little decompression in the middle of a busy day.

I know I've said it before, but once again, I thank you for writing and putting into such eloquent words the thoughts that often float around my mind without direction.

Justin said...

I especially like these sentences:

"Rather than appearing as obstacles, weather and terrain provide ingredients for the adventure."

"Blending the mind’s ingredients, an outdoor walk resembles the randomness of dreams."

I like the post because walking is so simple and can mean so much. Being someone who loves my typewriter, rotary telephone, and other simple pieces of older technology, I love the simplicity of walking. It's one of the few things in life that has not changed since man was created.

Brother said...

I too love the photo's - very real post. Happy feast day of Jeanne d'Arc!

Little Flower Petals said...

I had your post in mind during my late afternoon walk yesterday, particularly this part: An observation stops the pace, changes vantage point, and preserves an image. Teaching photo students, I’ll often say, “be a tourist in your own town.” Notice places familiar and changed.

The section of trail nearest my house is familiar now - but always different. Sometimes I go out and focus only on blowing off steam, getting some exercise, clearing my head. Yesterday, partly thanks to you, I let myself take it slow, stop to look at outlooks and trees and ferns, to notice the little details; to listen to the birds and the rain, a train in the distance, the wind in the trees.

Thank you - a lovely post, as always!