I have been off at a cottage in Canada for the last week and out of range of the internet, cell phones, everything. But I did borrow a bike. A couple of days ago I went for a ride on a local trail. About twelve kms in I punctured. Its’ becoming a habit. I was on a borrowed bike. I was on a remote trail. There was a saddle bag but no spare tube or patch kit and no pump on the bike. I had no money on me, and I did not take a cell phone. So I walked – for 12 kms. A victory for existentialism.
Søren Kierkegaard, the early 19th century Danish philosopher and father of existentialism (the starting point of thinking is the individual and the experiences of the individual), once wrote:
Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. If one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.
Kierkegaard was born at almost exactly the same time as the invention of the bicycle. If he had been a little more technologically curious I am sure he would have replaced walk and walking with cycle and cycling.
Implicit in this thought, however, is the realization that walking/cycling is good for your head and not just your body. It provides a way to enter a contemplative space that is not easy to find.
It also implicitly debunks the default notion that contemplation is all about stillness. It recognises that the contemplation of stillness can be a descent into crippling abstraction, while the contemplation of movement is an ascent into a fecund feedback loop with the experiential evidence of life.
The irony of course is that Kierkegaard died at 42 (1813 – 1855). He should have bought a bike.
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