To Ramble

On the value of the pedestrian arts


| July 28, 2005


Strolling is a dying art, and Tom Hodgkinson sees it as well worth reviving. Troubled by the 'forlorn pacing' of city-dwellers, Hodgkinson promotes long, dawdling walks in an excerpt from How to be Idle that appears in Resurgence.

Hodgkinson, an advocate of easy, yet contemplative living, wants pedestrians to take pleasure in walking, amble without purpose, and simply enjoy the journey. He points to nineteenth-century gentlemanly slackers who moseyed aimlessly through the streets of Paris as embodying such an approach to on-foot travel. These French urban idlers, also known as fl?neurs, did more than just stroll: 'Like idleness itself, there is a paradoxical purpose to fl?nerie: slow walking may seem like a waste of time to your man of business, but to the creative spirit it is a fertile activity, for it is when walking that the fl?neur thinks and generates ideas.'

Hodgkinson reaches back through history to cite Victor Hugo, Beethoven, John Lennon, William Blake as examples of thinkers who often were inspired while rambling. He views walking without a destination as not only an individual endeavor for creative types, but also as a social event, i.e., the Italian passeggiata, or stroll. Whether in a group or alone, Hodgkinson implores readers to tie up their walking shoes and go ramble.
-- Archie Ingersoll

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