As I sampled the genre, as well as countless articles and ads attesting to the creative effects of walking, I began to feel uneasy about the proselytizing mission. Is membership in the “Order of Walkers” quite the liberation it seems? Even those lucky enough to belong to its ranks might ask themselves how undistracted solitude and untethered mind-wandering can prosper when walking is constantly justified in terms of productivity. The 21st-century walking revival may have begun as a political critique, but it has found itself co-opted by the very forces it seeks to resist.
…Much of this essay was conceived while I was walking. Sometimes I would deliberately set out to inhabit solitude, hoping my ideas would cohere. At other times, I found myself mulling over paragraphs like this one as I went about my day—strolling to the coffee shop or grocery store. Somewhere along the way, I realized that as a writer, I never walk without working. On Wordsworth’s better soil, I’ve built an office. In Kagge’s inner silence, my keyboard chatters away. I don’t need to buy anything from LifeSpan, because I already walk upon an invisible treadmill desk, constantly channeling the powers beneath my feet into the next paycheck. What would it mean, for once, simply to walk and say nothing about it?
Well, for one thing, it would devastate the entire online content-producing ecosystem. Millions of people would start exhibiting symptoms of what would soon be diagnosed as a new, digitally-derived form of delirium tremens, their thumbs reflexively jabbing the air as they attempt to provide meaning to their strange sensory experience the only way they know how, by filtering it through a social media platform for the approval of others. But most importantly, should you actually pursue this almost-adolescent ideal of pure activity or contemplation for its own impractical sake, you would quickly find it to be excruciatingly boring and retreat to the world of commerce, status-seeking, and mixed motives, where the cycle of dissatisfaction would start over again. As a long-time, deeply-amused observer of the way in which walking, of all things, has become a trendy way to signal depth of mind, nobility of soul, and a modern Romantic opposition to the dark Satanic homogeneity of popular culture and mass transportation, I’d suggest our tortured artist should just learn to love the absurd spectacle rather than bewail it.
Lapointe is described here as a writer and critic from Toronto. He additionally might want to look up a fellow Torontonian who could enlighten him as to the inevitable fate of any type of movement or lifestyle that presents itself as explicitly anti-consumerist.