Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Philosophy: Wondering About Walking

Once upon a time wayfarers, who Thoreau writes “had a genius for sauntering,” were thought to be in search of the holy land. In this, the act of walking is itself a practical expression of a deliberate life that is bound by nothing but the search for something blessed.

These days we walk in solidarity, in opposition, in mourning as a funeral procession, to war we march from the French marcher to stride – and each time it is the behavior of walking and of setting-out that is a declaration.

Here in the Adirondacks on endless paths we go-ahead and follow Thoreau’s lead as he unlatches the door and steps out into the air. We sally forth in the way-making tradition that brings the thinking body into communion with its surroundings almost intuitively responding to Emerson’s call to hear what the earth says, as often we listen for thought’s new-found path.

In discussions around the body as a subject that can be read for meaning the way we read language, there is an idea called the body-moment that is meant to describe a dual sense of observance that happens at once in the body and the mind. In this double-bound world where the body and the landscape operate together, we recognize the self in a world of relations. This is the practice of life – or in our case the practice of walking – and the behavior of living that is twice connected, once with itself in the body and twice in the body on the land.

Whether we walk in service to a cause or in quiet homage for the landscape where we amble on, this fusion of mind and body in simultaneous observance invites a degree of attunement or awareness to the private, often solitary question of what it is we tune into as we wander away…

Marianne is a philosopher living, writing and teaching in the Adirondacks

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Marianne Patinelli-Dubay

My work at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry lies along the philosophical intersections of nature, culture, science and ethics in the Adirondack Park, NY. I lead the Environmental Philosophy Program at ESF’s Newcomb Campus located on the 15,000-acre Huntington Wildlife Forest (HWF). Here I am responsible for the design and facilitation of rich conversations aimed at a variety of audiences, across disciplines. Initiatives in this program are intended to bridge humanities content with HWF-specific field knowledge and experience in order to understand the impacts of the relationship between scientific research and the regional land-use policy it advances. 

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