The freedom in walking lies in being no one: Philosopher

A delightfully light (but thoughtful) interview focuses on a new book — A Philosophy of Walking — written by a French professor who takes the subject so seriously he's nervous about answering questions from a reporter. 

From The Guardian:

It is a sunny spring Sunday and – joy! – I am off to Paris to go for a walk. Not any old walk, but a walk with a man who really knows about walking: Frédéric Gros, a professor of walking. A philosopher of walking.

Strictly speaking, he's actually a professor of philosophy who writes about walking, but this is nitpicking. What do I care? I love walking. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than walking uphill, for hours, in order to sleep under some flimsy piece of nylon fabric and then do it all again the next day.


Gros's book, a surprise bestseller in France, talks of walking as a form of "life scoured bare"; as a way of "experiencing the real". Its pages are filled with calm reflections on the joys of moving slowly. He just doesn't sound as if he should be the stressy type.

Don't be stressed, I tell him. I loved the book. It's an examination of the philosophy of various thinkers for whom walking was central to their work – NietzscheRimbaudKantRousseauThoreau (they're all men; it's unclear if women don't walk or don't think) – and Gros's own thoughts on the subject. It's a passionate affirmation of the simple life, and joy in simple things. And it's beautifully written: clear, simple, precise; the opposite of most academic writing.

But, when I say this to Gros, he waves his hand. "I think it is probably the translation. I don't think it was so well written in French." And he takes a nervous swig of his rosé. are you nervous, I ask. You must have done interviews before. "They were in French," he says. "And also… Um… I'm not so sure I am interesting."

Another must read for yours truly: Here's the writer/walker:


And a thought from the author:

By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history … The freedom in walking lies in not being anyone; for the walking body has no history, it is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial life.

Maybe this is why I like it so much — gives me a chance to escape from myself. To simply live. 

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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