Walking & Thinking

Thought a bit more about nostalgia today on my morning walk. (I blogged about the same theme years ago.)

Perhaps I enjoy nostalgia because of having, as best I remember, an idyllic childhood—wonderful parents who had a middle-class income, a healthy mind and body, a good education, a physically safe environment, and all in the midst of a bustling economy with wealth distributed relatively fairly (much more so than it is now) and a polity still somewhat united in the aftermath of WWII. Had I not been born with that genome in that environment, I may be less nostalgic. I wish everyone had an excellent past to look back on, and an infinitely good future to look forward to.

It is not surprising that such ideas took hold while walking, which provides the opportunity for and is conducive to, uninterrupted, reflective thinking. Many have extolled the virtues of walking: Lao Tzu, Aristotle, Rousseau, Dickens, Freud, Piaget, and former US Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Harry Truman.1 2 The physical and psychological benefits of walking make it even more appealing. I encourage everyone to walk if possible and if you cannot, then move your body in whatever way you can.

And if you cannot move for some reason, then move your mind and explore its space. There you can travel as far as your imagination and sense of wonder allow; seeing sights and thinking thoughts that the able-bodied may miss.


1. http://blog.ted.com/2013/04/29/walking-meetings-5-surprising-thinkers-who-swore-by-them/
2. http://www.laweekly.com/2008-10-30/art-books/walk-on-the-mild-side/

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5 thoughts on “Walking & Thinking

  1. Dr. Messerly,

    I so understand what you mean!

    “Perhaps I enjoy nostalgia because of having, as best I remember, an idyllic childhood…”. There is not a SINGLE day I do think of my idyllic childhood. Childhood nostalgia is one of my obsessions, though certainly not an unhealthy one. As a musician, music holds a powerful sway on me, more powerful than anything else, and for the last 15 years I have been collecting all the TV themes and any music I have heard on TV as a child. Hearing the theme of Felix the Cat immediately takes me back to a magical place. As Emil Cioran said of his own childhood, “it has been my paradise…”

    I so much pity people who have had a bad childhood. I have read memoirs of people who grew up in orphanages. And of course, we all have heard of people who had bad experiences at home with their family. This is terrible, for a bad part of one’s life should best come as late as possible, lest it be remembered for the full length of one’s remaining life.

    And I absolutely agree with what you say about walking. And to do it in contact with nature, it always has a reinvigorating and beneficial effect.

    “Many have extolled the virtues of walking: Lao Tzu, Aristotle…”. And let’s not forget Schopenhauer: he NEVER missed his daily walk, ever; he would spend two or more hours walking in the woods with his dog, even with bad weather, rain and cold. He would just put on his raincoat and march away. And in regard to exercise, he wrote:

    “Physical exercise should be practiced on a regular basis, for no one can stay healthy without it. Life is movement. The tree needs to be shaken in the wind….”.

    People who met him personally wrote that he was very sprightly and lively, even in old age.

    Best regards,
    PS. Schopenhauer also wrote that the best part of his life had been his childhood, to which he referred as “our lost Paradise”, specifically the two years he spent in France as a child, ironically not with his own family.

    But the point is, truly a good childhood is such a special gift, in one’s life. No wonder we get nostalgic about it!

  2. Have taken to heart your advice. Inasmuch as I can no longer walk well or far, I have restored a bicycle, retrieved from dumpster death. I have long been able to do such work, along with other such activities that appear to emanate from my genome, things I have no experience with but am able to figure out or pick up a book to do so. I would say my childhood was interesting. Not idyllic, no—there were times that were tough. A war, and my response to that, got in the way. By the time all that dust settled, I was seven years behind people whom I competed with for the better available positions. I learned to do the best I could with what I had and knew. Thanks for the memories, Doctor.

  3. thanks for the comments Paul. As for me, I can’t fix anything so I’m jealous of your skills.

  4. I agree with everything you say. Again, I was so lucky to receive so much love from my parents.

  5. As a youth, I ran cross-country. Only the need for air and a halt to the burn brought me to rest. I had no desire to stop and smell the flowers; time and records were my singular obsessions. It was only the tape at the end and the nearness of competitors that focused my thoughts then. Not now, today I walk every day and use the slowed down time to observe all the things in nature that I miss traveling 55 mph on the highways. While some get their best ideas in showers or from dreams, mine come from contemplations during my no longer lonely sojourns in the woods. Keep on trucking!

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