Walking is like sleeping
"The power of a country road is different when one is waking along it from when one is flying over it by airplane." -  Walter Benjamin

Walking is almost as basic and accessible as sleeping; walking is the second way to pass time. But it is the first way to pass space. In considering sleep disorders it becomes apparent that everyone's relationship to, and experience of sleeping is unique. Likewise it would be nearly unforgivable to say that everyone's experience of walking is the same, I mean for one thing, not everybody walks. None-the-less the seeming basic-ness and common knowledge of walking makes it a powerful analogical term in literature and art (walking is generally too slow however for use by the commercial media that dominates contemporary culture, with all of its spectacular habits and love of speed). In "One Way Street" Walter Benjamin juxtaposes the experience of walking to what was the emerging modern experience of passenger flight. He uses the juxtaposition as an analogy comparing the marked difference in power between transcribing and reading a text, "people who walk the road are opened up to the intricacies of its power, the tactical precision with which it calls forth distances, panoramas, clearings and prospects at each turn. All of which to the fliers are barely more than an unfurled plain." Long walks have the power of opening interior spaces. Or to use Benjamin's analogy in reverse, "the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened by the text, that road cut through the interior jungle." Whether walking and talking with another person, walking and chanting in a huge group, or walking alone in thought, a cognitive space comparable to the dream space of sleep inflates and exhales its images and ideas. And much like one can develop a relationship with h/er dream life, one can practice occupying the cognitive location of walking and exploit it as a resource for the development of the independent imagination, which may or may not be worthwhile.

After thought:

Looking at what I wrote above it occurs to me that I am preoccupied by a manner of walking that has very little to do with the fits and starts of day to day walking, all of the walking done in the home and the work place, for example. Don't these forays deserve a little attention, and don't they also somehow inform the imagination?


- Mike Wolf