When you walk, news becomes unimportant. Soon you have lost all knowledge of the world and its gymnastics, the most recent own goal, the latest scandal. You no longer await the surprise development, or want to hear how it really all began or what happened in the end. Heard the latest? When you are walking, all that ceases to matter. Being in the presence of what absolutely endures detaches us from that ephemeral news for which we are usually agog. After walking far and long, you can even come to wonder in surprise how you could ever have been interested in it. The slow respiration of things makes everyday huffing and puffing appear vain, unhealthy agitation.
…That is why walking leads to a total loss of interest in what is called — laughably no doubt — the ‘news’, one of whose main features is that it becomes old as soon as it is uttered. Once caught in the rhythm, Thoreau says, you are on the treadmill: you want to know what comes next. The real challenge, though, is not to know what has changed, but to get closer to what remains eternally new. So you should replace reading the morning papers with a walk. News items replace one another, become mixed up together, are repeated and forgotten. But the truth is that as soon as you start walking, all that noise, all those rumours, fade out. What’s new? Nothing: the calm eternity of things, endlessly renewed.
— Fréderic Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
The Lady of the House listens to Kara Swisher’s podcast — de gustibus non est disputandum and all that — and “generously” informed me about a recent episode, where Swisher’s shallow, obnoxious co-host was trying to convince her to spend some time talking about the conclusion to Game of Thrones. Swisher responded that if people spent as much time thinking about their country as they do about the writers of GoT, it would be a better country (as the kids like to say these days, “citation needed”). She would prefer to focus on “our crazy president,” which, as we all know, is a sorely neglected topic among the chattering class. One literal minute of this was all I could take. I hate the agitated, hyperactive style of “conversation” almost as much as I hate the appalling philistine ideas about civic engagement.
Gros speaks the truth here, but I don’t think that walking is unique in this regard. Any activity, of leisure or labor, can have the same absorbing affect, making current events seem irrelevant and irritating. If I’m honest, I have to admit that if it weren’t for writing as a hobby, I wouldn’t care to spend anywhere near as much time online. Unfortunately, I don’t have the talent or depth to write with nothing but my inner resources for inspiration, so I have to rely heavily on “conversational” prompts, which is one of the strengths of blogging. It’s an uneasy compromise, though. There are many times when, having been occupied with other things for several days, I sit down at the computer to browse and feel a slight sense of…what, exactly? Negative anticipation? Grim duty? Whatever it is, there’s a jarring sensation, like entering a section of interstate under renovation, as my mind shifts back into Internet-time. For now, at least, I consider the tension to be a productive one overall, but I do wonder if and when that might change.