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A Philosophy of Walking A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros
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A Philosophy of Walking Quotes (showing 1-30 of 34)
“None of your knowledge, your reading, your connections will be of any use here: two legs suffice, and big eyes to see with. Walk alone, across mountains or through forests. You are nobody to the hills or the thick boughs heavy with greenery. You are no longer a role, or a status, not even an individual, but a body, a body that feels sharp stones on the paths, the caress of long grass and the freshness of the wind. When you walk, the world has neither present nor future: nothing but the cycle of mornings and evenings. Always the same thing to do all day: walk. But the walker who marvels while walking (the blue of the rocks in a July evening light, the silvery green of olive leaves at noon, the violet morning hills) has no past, no plans, no experience. He has within him the eternal child. While walking I am but a simple gaze.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history. Being someone is all very well for smart parties where everyone is telling their story, it's all very well for psychologists' consulting rooms. But isn't being someone also a social obligation which trails in its wake – for one has to be faithful to the self-portrait – a stupid and burdensome fiction? 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.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“Anger is needed to leave, to walk. That doesn’t come from outside. In the hollow of the belly the pain of being here, the impossibility of remaining where you are, of being buried alive, of simply staying.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“Days of slow walking are very long: they make you live longer, because you have allowed every hour, every minute, every second to breathe, to deepen, instead of filling them up by straining the joints…”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“The Native Americans, whose wisdom Thoreau admired, regarded the Earth itself as a sacred source of energy. To stretch out on it brought repose, to sit on the ground ensured greater wisdom in councils, to walk in contact with its gravity gave strength and endurance. The Earth was an inexhaustible well of strength: because it was the original Mother, the feeder, but also because it enclosed in its bosom all the dead ancestors. It was the element in which transmission took place. Thus, instead of stretching their hands skyward to implore the mercy of celestial divinities, American Indians preferred to walk barefoot on the Earth: The Lakota was a true Naturist – a lover of Nature. He loved the earth and all things of the earth, the attachment growing with age. The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth. Their tipis were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The birds that flew in the air came to rest on the earth and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew. The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing. That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly; he can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him. Walking, by virtue of having the earth’s support, feeling its gravity, resting on it with every step, is very like a continuous breathing in of energy. But the earth’s force is not transmitted only in the manner of a radiation climbing through the legs. It is also through the coincidence of circulations: walking is movement, the heart beats more strongly, with a more ample beat, the blood circulates faster and more powerfully than when the body is at rest. And the earth’s rhythms draw that along, they echo and respond to each other. A last source of energy, after the heart and the Earth, is landscapes. They summon the walker and make him at home: the hills, the colours, the trees all confirm it. The charm of a twisting path among hills, the beauty of vine fields in autumn, like purple and gold scarves, the silvery glitter of olive leaves against a defining summer sky, the immensity of perfectly sliced glaciers … all these things support, transport and nourish us.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“Slowness means cleaving perfectly to time, so closely that the seconds fall one by one, drop by drop like the steady dripping of a tap on stone. This stretching of time deepens space. It is one of the secrets of walking: a slow approach to landscapes that gradually renders them familiar. Like the regular encounters that deepen friendship.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“Walking causes a repetitive, spontaneous poetry to rise naturally to the lips, words as simple as the sound of footsteps on the road. There also seems to be an echo of walking in the practice of two choruses singing a psalm in alternate verses, each on a single note, a practice that makes it possible to chant and listen by turns. Its main effect is one of repetition and alternation that St Ambrose compared to the sound of the sea: when a gentle surf is breaking quietly on the shore the regularity of the sound doesn’t break the silence, but structures it and renders it audible. Psalmody in the same way, in the to-and-fro of alternating responses, produces (Ambrose said) a happy tranquillity in the soul. The echoing chants, the ebb and flow of waves recall the alternating movement of walking legs: not to shatter but to make the world’s presence palpable and keep time with it. And just as Claudel said that sound renders silence accessible and useful, it ought to be said that walking renders presence accessible and useful.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“silence usually taught him more than the company of others.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“Think while walking, walk while thinking, and let writing be but the light pause, as the body on a walk rests in contemplation of wide open spaces.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“Walking: it hits you at first like an immense breathing in the ears. You feel the silence as if it were a great fresh wind blowing away clouds. There’s the silence of woodland. Clumps and groves of trees form shifting, uncertain walls around us. We walk along existing paths, narrow winding strips of beaten earth. We quickly lose our sense of direction. That silence is tremulous, uneasy. Then there’s the silence of tough summer afternoon walks across the flank of a mountain, stony paths, exposed to an uncompromising sun.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“When there is really nothing left to do or believe, except to remember, walking helps retrieve the absolute simplicity of presence, beyond all hope, before any expectation.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“This time, there’s no question of freeing yourself from artifice to taste simple joys. Instead there is the promise of meeting a freedom head-on as an outer limit of the self and of the human, an internal overflowing of a rebellious Nature that goes beyond you. Walking can provoke these excesses: surfeits of fatigue that make the mind wander, abundances of beauty that turn the soul over, excesses of drunkenness on the peaks, the high passes (where the body explodes). Walking ends by awakening this rebellious, archaic part of us: our appetites become rough and uncompromising, our impulses inspired. Because walking puts us on the vertical axis of life: swept along by the torrent that rushes just beneath us. What I mean is that by walking you are not going to meet yourself. By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history. Being someone is all very well for smart parties where everyone is telling their story, it’s all very well for psychologists’ consulting rooms. But isn’t being someone also a social obligation which trails in its wake – for one has to be faithful to the self-portrait – a stupid and burdensome fiction? 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.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“Blinding, mineral, shattering silence. You hear nothing but the quiet crunch of stones underfoot. An implacable, definitive silence, like a transparent death. Sky of a perfectly detached blue. You advance with eyes down, reassuring yourself sometimes with a silent mumbling. Cloudless sky, limestone slabs filled with presence: silence nothing can sidestep. Silence fulfilled, vibrant immobility, tensed like a bow. There’s the silence of early morning. For long routes in autumn you have to start very early. Outside everything is violet, the dim light slanting through red and gold leaves. It is an expectant silence. You walk softly among huge dark trees, still swathed in traces of blue night. You are almost afraid of awakening. Everything whispering quietly. There’s the silence of walks through the snow, muffled footsteps under a white sky. All around you nothing moves. Things and even time itself are iced up, frozen solid in silent immobility. Everything is stopped, unified, thickly padded. A watching silence, white, fluffy, suspended as if in parentheses.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“Joy is not the satisfied contemplation of an accomplished result, the emotion of victory, the satisfaction of having succeeded. It is the sign of an energy that is deftly deployed, it is a free affirmation: everything comes easy. Joy is an activity: executing with ease something difficult that has taken time to master, asserting the faculties of the mind and the body. Joys of thought when it finds and discovers, joys of the body when it achieves without effort. That is why joy, unlike pleasure, increases with repetition, and is enriched. When you are walking, joy is a basso continuo. Locally, of course, you may run into effort and difficulty. You will also find immediate moments of contentment: a proud gaze backwards to contemplate the long steep plunge of the slope behind you. Those satisfactions, though, too often present an opportunity to reintroduce quantities, scores, figures (which track? how long? what altitude?). And walking becomes a competition. That is why expeditions in high mountain country (conquering peaks, each one a challenge) are always slightly impure: because they give rise to narcissistic gratification. What dominates in walking, away from ostentation and showing off, is the simple joy of feeling your body in the most primitively natural activity.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“In the history of walking, many experts considering him (Wordsworth) the authentic originator of the long expedition. He was the first – at a time (the late eighteenth century) when walking was the lot of the poor, vagabonds and highwaymen, not to mention travelling showmen and pedlars – to conceive of the walk as a poetic act, a communion with Nature, fulfilment of the body, contemplation of the landscape. Christopher Morley wrote of him that he was ‘one of the first to use his legs in the service of philosophy’.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“So it’s best to walk alone, except that one is never entirely alone. As Henry David Thoreau wrote: ‘I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls.’ To be buried in Nature is perpetually distracting. Everything talks to you, greets you, demands your attention: trees, flowers, the colour of the roads. The sigh of the wind, the buzzing of insects, the babble of streams, the impact of your feet on the ground: a whole rustling murmur that responds to your presence. Rain, too. A light and gentle rain is a steady accompaniment, a murmur you listen to with its intonations, outbursts, pauses: the distinct plopping of drops splashing on stone, the long melodious weave of sheets of rain falling steadily.

It’s impossible to be alone when walking, with so many things under our gaze which are given to us through the inalienable grasp of contemplation.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“Andar no es un deporte. Poner un pie delante de otro es un juego de niños. Cuando dos caminantes se encuentran, no es cuestión ni de resultados ni de números: uno le dirá al otro qué camino ha tomado, qué sendero ofrece el paisaje más hermoso, qué panorama se contempla desde tal o cual promontorio.”
Frédéric Gros, Andar, una filosofía
“In walking, far from any vehicle or machine, from any mediation, I am replaying the earthly human condition, embodying once again man’s inborn, essential destitution. That is why humility is not humiliating: it just makes vain pretensions fall away, and thus nudges us towards authenticity.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“An author who composes while walking, on the other hand, is free from such bonds; his thought is not the slave of other volumes, not swollen with verifications, nor weighted with the thought of others. It contains no explanation owed to anyone: just thought, judgement, decision. It is thought born of a movement, an impulse. In it we can feel the body’s elasticity, the rhythm of a dance. It retains and expresses the energy, the springiness of the body. Here is thought about the thing itself, without the scrambling, the fogginess, the barriers, the customs clearances of culture and tradition. The result will not be long and meticulous exegesis, but thoughts that are light and profound. That is really the challenge: the lighter a thought, the more it rises, and becomes profound by rising – vertiginously – above the thick marshes of conviction, opinion, established thought. While books conceived in the library are on the contrary superficial and heavy. They remain on the level of recopying.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“You are out of the world’s chatter, its corridor echoes, its muttering. Walking: it hits you at first like an immense breathing in the ears. You feel the silence as if it were a great fresh wind blowing away clouds.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“The illusion of speed is the belief that it saves time. It looks simple at first sight: finish something in two hours instead of three, gain an hour. It’s an abstract calculation, though, done as if each hour of the day were like an hour on the clock, absolutely equal.

But haste and speed accelerate time, which passes more quickly, and two hours of hurry shorten a day. Every minute is torn apart by being segmented, stuffed to bursting. You can pile a mountain of things into an hour.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“When you are on foot, to arrive you must walk.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“Andar no es un deporte. El deporte es una cuestión de técnicas y de reglas, de resultados y de competición, y todo ello requiere un largo aprendizaje: conocer las posiciones, dominar los gestos adecuados. Y, mucho después, vienen la improvisación y el talento.”
Frédéric Gros, Andar, una filosofía
“Caminando, solo una hazaña importa: la intensidad del cielo, la belleza de los paisajes. Andar no es un deporte.”
Frédéric Gros, Andar, una filosofía
“Pero ser alguien ¿no es una vez más una obligación social que encadena (uno se obliga a ser fiel al retrato de sí mismo), una ficción estúpida que pesa sobre nuestros hombros?”
Frédéric Gros, Andar, una filosofía
“el cuerpo que camina no tiene historia, tan solo un flujo de vida inmemorial.”
Frédéric Gros, Andar, una filosofía
“La experiencia común, en los siglos precedentes, era la sorpresa de un extranjero en la ciudad: un rostro desconocido. ¿De dónde viene, qué viene a hacer aquí? Pero hoy en día el anonimato es la norma. Lo sorprendente es reconocer a alguien.”
Frédéric Gros, Andar, una filosofía
“suele decir que caminar te «vacía la mente». Al contrario: andar te llena el espíritu de una consistencia distinta. No la de las ideas o las doctrinas, no en el sentido de una cabeza atiborrada de frases, citas y teorías, sino llena de la presencia del mundo. Esa presencia, al andar, se ha ido depositando en el alma a lo largo de todo el día,”
Frédéric Gros, Andar, una filosofía
“When walking in this mode we discover the immense vigour of starry night skies, elemental energies, and our appetites follow: they are enormous, and our bodies are satisfied. When you have slammed the world’s door, there is nothing left to hold you: pavements no longer guide your steps (the path, a hundred thousand times repeated, of the return to the fold). Crossroads shimmer like hesitant stars, you rediscover the tremulous fear of choosing, a vertiginous freedom.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
“And as we know from the pilgrimage diaries of Swami Ramdas, it is when we renounce everything that everything is given to us, in abundance. Everything: meaning the intensity of presence itself.”
Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking

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