Archive for November 9th, 2017

I’ve just posted on my Blog about: Homo viator

November 9, 2017

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Homo viator

November 9, 2017

Frederic Gros is humming my tune in today’s Happiness assignment, with his paean to the sacred silence of early morning walks, “dim light slanting through red and gold leaves” in autumn, “muffled footsteps under a white sky” in winter’s snow (a rare occasion in these parts), and in every season an invitation to peaceable coexistence in and with the antique world. Silence is the golden muting of deafening nonsensical noisy chatter. People used to say, ironically or moronically, “Thanks, Obama”… I say Thanks, Drumpf… 

Thanks for pushing chatter beyond the tipping-point and breaking my morning addiction to NPR and all the other news-speaky organs of idle talk and breathless speculation driven by our benighted CEO’s latest tweet-storm. Now the only information I require before leaving the house and hitting the pavement is a brief weather update, so I’ll know whether to to lay down the base layer, grab the rain gear, or just go.

Then, I check the Writers Almanac for a little historical and literary context, a little poetry and a reminder that all things must pass. In a dark time that’s lightening.

I think Gros overstates the extent to which walkers lose the use of language, even when “doing nothing but walk” (and even if they emulate their canine companions’ version of “nothing”-the aforementioned sniffing, squirreling, circling, meandering etc.)… and the Wallace Stevens/Nietzsche/Rousseau style of peripatetic composition obviously intends the opposite. But I do get the point of appreciating those moments when words are seen to be mere innocent bystanders to the silence in which “you hear better” because you’re finally really seeing, really noticing things and not just issuing a running commentary.

The sight of desk or chair does not suffice to sicken me, as Rousseau said it did him, but too much direct seat-of-the-pants acquaintance definitely can. Some see standing and treadmill desks as the solution, but unless it’s 20 below I’ll pass on that. For a while I tried setting an hourly alarm, to make sure those sedentary sessions didn’t exceed safe limits. Better to just train ourselves to know what sick-desk syndrome feels like. You don’t have to set an alarm to let you know your nasal passages need clearing, after all, why should blocked mental and emotional passages be any harder to diagnose?

“The doggish man of the Enlightenment” was through, like his cynical forerunner, with the proprieties and conventions of polite society. That’s fine, to a point. But untrained dogs are less than impolite, they’re a sanitation and safety hazard. Get up and show a little respect, Diogenes.
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The aspiration to identify and personify homo viator, “walking man,” is one I certainly relate to. “Sitting man” is normal, sadly, but definitely not natural. We’re designed, naturally selected, to move. But the romantic notion of a natural man who loves but does not favor or prefer himself, who does not wage even a cold war against all others, is still strictly aspirational at the species level. The Hobbes-Rousseau debate continues. But I’ve known healthily-altruistic non-egoists who nonetheless suffered no noticeable self-loathing. 

In Rousseau’s final walking reveries, recounted in Reveries of the Solitary Walker, he may have experienced “marvelous contentment” – it’s hard enough to recognize that state in oneself, never mind an old dead philosopher. And, we may still wonder about the gap between contentment and true happiness. But if in my own future final reveries I can manage to “walk at my ease… without being obliged to hurry, and with a pleasant prospect at the end,” you can call me happy. If I then also  manage to “rediscover the simple joy of existing… that permeates the whole of childhood,” well, I don’t guess there’s a word for that. Or needs to be.

Image result for emerson transparent eyeball
 ‘I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all…’

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