An homage to walking by a man who believes it to be more beneficial to human health than any medicine or drug.
Norwegian explorer and publisher Kagge (Silence: In the Age of Noise, 2017, etc.) knows his subject matter intimately: He has walked to the North and South Poles and to the top of Mount Everest (he was the first person to complete the “Three Poles Challenge”), through the tunnels under New York City (“the architecture wilderness of subterranean tunnels is a living organism…the underground train is constantly in flux”), and along the sidewalks of Los Angeles, and he has traced the footsteps of characters in James Joyce’s Ulysses (Dublin) and Knut Hamsun’s Hunger (Oslo). Besides his own walking experiences, Kagge draws on thinkers and writers from ancient times to the present—Herodotus, Montaigne, Thoreau, Kierkegaard, Steve Jobs—and on scientists currently studying walking in cockroaches and penguins. Throughout this brief but eloquent meditation, the author makes a convincing case for the importance of walking. For him, walking is not simply taking a series of steps; it is something thrilling and amazing, “a combination of movement, humility, balance, curiosity, smell, sound, light and—if you walk long enough—longing….It can be the thought of something joyful that disturbs you, or something disturbing that brings you plenitude.” In addition to expressing his love for walking, he clearly conveys his sorrow about its disappearance in the modern world. Bipedalism, he writes, enabled Homo sapiens to become who we are; now that we sit more often, including driving, what will be the effect on our evolution as a species? Possibly, he speculates, as we nonpedestrians give up experiencing the tangible world around us, we will become more open to intangibles, such as emotion and spirituality. Kagge also offers a too-short but fascinating section on Nan Madol, “a forgotten city in the Western Pacific Ocean that is reminiscent of Venice.”
A thoughtful book-length essay on a taken-for-granted human activity.