The History of Walking

“Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking. The most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak.

The history of walking is an unwritten, secret history whose fragments can be found in a thousand unemphatic passages in books, as well as in songs, streets, and almost everyone’s adventures. The bodily history of walking is that of bipedal evolution and human anatomy. Most of the time walking is merely practical, the unconsidered locomotive means between two sites. To make walking into an investigation, a ritual, a meditation, is a special subset of walking, physiologically like and philosophically unlike the way the mail carrier brings the mail and the office worker reaches the train. Which is to say that the subject of walking is, in some sense, about how we invest universal acts with particular meanings. Like eating or breathing, it can be invested with wildly different cultural meanings, from the erotic to the spiritual, from the revolutionary to the artistic. Here this history begins to become part of the history of the imagination and the culture, of what kind of pleasure, freedom, and meaning are pursued at different times by different kinds of walks and walkers. That imagination has both shaped and been shaped by the spaces it passes through on two feet. Walking has created paths, roads, trade routes; generated local and cross-continental senses of place; shaped cities, parks; generated maps, guidebooks, gear, and, further afield, a vast library of walking stories and poems, of pilgrimages, mountaineering expeditions, meanders, and summer picnics. The landscapes, urban and rural, gestate the stories, and the stories bring us back to the sites of this history.”

By Rebecca Solnit

Penguin Books ISBN: 0140286012  (Read the full introductory note here)

“El ritmo del andar genera un tipo de ritmo del pensar y el pasaje por un paisaje refleja o estimula el pasaje a través de una serie de pensamientos. Esto produce una singular consonancia entre un pasaje interno y uno externo, que sugiere que la mente es un paisaje dentro de otros y que el andar es un modo de atravesarlo. Un nuevo pensamiento aparece como una característica del paisaje, como si el pensar fuera más un viajar que un hacer.”

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1 Response to “The History of Walking”


  1. 1 Mr WordPress febrero 5, 2008 a las 11:39 pm

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RECORRIDOS URBANOS

Bitácora del curso Recorridos e Intervenciones Urbanas para el Departamento de Artes Visuales de la Universidad Javeriana por el profesor Alvaro Moreno Hoffmann

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