Delight Springs

Friday, June 20, 2014

On going

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) is a neglected walking philosopher and philosopher of walking, though they did an entire In Our Time on him without mention of his pedestrian proclivity. Odd, since Melvyn Bragg's chatty post-production missives frequently recount his own  traipses about London ("he walks to and from his home and the House of Lords, and in the Cumbrian fells")What Bragg says of writing applies equally to walking: "Time goes past and you’ve been somewhere and come back that hasn’t hurt you and you’ve been somebody else." And you're just a bit more sure, at least for now, of who & what you really are.)

But all dedicated walkers know this Hazlitt reflection, only superficially misanthropic for its repudiation of human companionship during his walks:
Give me the clear blue sky over my head, and the green turf beneath my feet, a winding road before me, and a three hours' march to dinner--and then to thinking! It is hard if I cannot start some game on these lone heaths. I laugh, I run, I leap, I sing for joy. From the point of yonder rolling cloud I plunge into my past being, and revel there... and I begin to feel, think, and be myself again. Instead of an awkward silence, broken by attempts at wit or dull common-places, mine is that undisturbed silence of the heart which alone is perfect eloquence.
The impulse here is to break free of artifice and pretense, and stride into full self-possession. There's nothing hateful or reclusive about it. It foreshadows Thoreau. (What would either of them make of the automa-technology that produced this wooden - though still oddly charming - representation?)

Hazlitt said "travel's greatest purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”  That'll be a good motto for our peripatetic Study Abroad course, which is again at the front of my drawing board.

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