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A New Team Sport: Talk-Walking

During the recent 14 days with the Band of Boondockers, we had enjoyable, non-athletic walks up the road, twice a day. It was more like conversational sauntering than hiking.

Some people would consider it pretentious to compare our conversational sauntering to the walks in the garden that the philosophers of ancient Greece took with each other, but an indulgence of this type is useful if it helps bring back a long-neglected, yet wonderful custom. To appreciate conversational sauntering to the fullest, compare it to the new cultural atrocity of people sitting down to a meal at the same table, with one eye on the people they are there to talk to, and the other eye on their damn smartphone.

Consider how the mere act of walking naturally overcomes some of the defects of conversations. Those prone to over-intellectualizing (aka, building sand castles in the sky) might be affected by the physicality of walking: they are reminded that human beings have bodies, and that moods sometime depend more on physiology than psychology. Another benefit is that somebody in a too serious or sour mood might become more cheerful when walking.

Like Swift, I believe that conversations (while sitting in chairs) are ruined by everybody trying too hard to be an entertainer -- they are afraid of being ignored, I suppose. But don't we already get enough entertainment crap elsewhere? Falling into the trap of being a frustrated comedian starts a vicious circle of excessive self-consciousness: you become more interested in applause than in important truths. It helps to forget about ourselves and redirect our attention to ideas, softened by a kindly regard for the frail feelings of other people in the circle. I sense the frustrated-entertainer-syndrome falling off somewhat, when sauntering.

Everybody hogs the microphone at times. Talking-while-walking has a way of breaking that momentum, when, for instance, an interesting sight suddenly appears to the walkers, or when they need to gulp some air. Actually, the group's motor-mouth might be the first to stop and gulp for air, at least at 10,000 feet of altitude.

A talker in a chair is prone to falling in love with their own mighty thoughts. But when they walk, their attention is naturally taken to the external. Their thinking is objectified. They begin to escape the echo chamber of their own skull. Almost without effort they begin to talk to -- not at -- other people.

Conversely, talking improves walking. How pleasant it is to escape solitary, puritanical hiking, and turn it into goal-and-conquest-free relaxation, whose tempo is varied and playful, almost like a type of dance. And with talk as the musical accompaniment.


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You might enjoy the essay by Jonathan Swift on Conversation, at Quotidiana.org.

Also consider Thoreau's essay on "Walking", at Gutenberg.org. 

Comments

Anonymous said…
I think you nailed it. Recent family gatherings bear out your observations about conversing from chairs. But, they were still pleasant and rewarding events. I watch the two- and threesomes walking in our neighborhood, always chatting, always animated, always laughing. I wonder what they find to talk about day after day. Obviously, it’s good stuff.

Chris
Thanks, Chris. I like to see people walking in pairs, too. And chattering.
Randy said…
Bravo: As one of the walkers--I agree completely. Really great conversations--wish I'd written this.
Thanks, Randy. It is becoming a fine tradition in the "band."
Bethers said…
Being out in the boonies, I take it you haven’t seen the Pokemon Go zombies out there with their tricorders running into things. That seems to be a new team sport. At least it gets them off the couch and outside into some fresh air...
Oh dear me, I don't think I even want to know about this! (grin)