Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Grab Bag: Thoreau on Walking

Friday is Grab Bag Day, and usually I reserve the Grab Bag for the irreverent or the inane. But as you may remember, I am also a Henry David Thoreau fan, and since I'm lacking any good tidbits from the Laugh Department this week (other than the steady drumbeat of the terrifying idiocy out of Donald Trump), I'm going to offer the opening sentences from Walking, Thoreau's meditation on the subject written shortly before his death in May 1862. It's a lovely little thing.

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil, -- to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that.
I have met one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, -- who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived "from the idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of a la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land , till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer, a Holy Lander. Those who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean.