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The mind at three miles and hour by rebecca solnit

Solnit is determined not to discuss the great outdoors, but the useful mental effects of pedestrian travel. Mood and world outlook, she claims, are deeply affected by the time one takes walking and the attitude people have towards walking. Unfortunately, Solnit is highly critical of other people's attitudes and doesn't leave a lot of room for compromising her own views.

We are thus treated to a remarkably single-minded view of walking, written with the half-hearted pretense of being an objective history. It seems that she didn't want to write a history at all, but someone forced her into it. The most interesting parts of the book are where she is not describing the past but the present situation. This includes the philosophical introduction p. As a venture into a serious historical look at walking it is both frustratingly biased and incomplete.

As a set of informal personal thoughts about walking it is excellent, but often misdirected. As a result I am hesitant to recommend it as a part of anyone's library, but it is a nice book to read at the library, or as a starting point for a good talk while walking in the park. Chapter summaries and things to look out for Chapter 1 The best chapter. Solnit romantically praises of the "unwritten, secret history" of walking for pleasure, that is to say, the feeling of participating in a secret art practiced by thousands of lovers of walking in ages past.

This statement is remarkably insightful but she does not really expand on it in the rest of the book. The mind, body, and world are linked in walking; this statement, on the other hand, she goes into detail about later, to excellent effect.

A key issue is raised that the mere history of walking cannot confront: Both rural and urban walking have for two centuries been prime ways of exploring the unpredictable and the incalculable, but they are now under attack on many fronts.

Anyway, instead of picking my favorite parts of this chapter, I'll copy what my friend Steph quoted: The multiplication of technologies in the name of efficiency is actually eradicating free time by making it possible to maximize the time and place for production and minimize the unstructured travel time in between.

  • As we move into the late 20th century we also see people walking "around the world" in a disingenuous fashion, but once again Solnit goes into greater detail about her hang-ups than what these people gained from their walks;
  • We are thus treated to a remarkably single-minded view of walking, written with the half-hearted pretense of being an objective history;
  • The people Wordsworth met were quite interesting.

As a member of the self-employed whose time saved by technology can be lavished on dreams and meanders, I know these things have their uses, and use them.

I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought, or thoughtfulness. Walking is about being outside, in public space, and public space is also being abandoned and eroded in older cities, eclipsed by technologies and services that don't require leaving home, and shadowed by fear in many places and strange places are always more frightening than known ones, so the less on wanders the city the more alarming it seems, while the fewer the wanderers the more lonely and dangerous it really becomes.

The benefits of walking are listed: Chapter 2 Philosophers pace when they are lost in thought. Testimonies to the usefulness of walking are presented from Rosseau and Kierkegaard, the latter of whom had to quit urban walking because he was upset about people making fun of him. Not much is actually discussed in this chapter, but we get the impression that Solnit is fond of both these philosophers.

Chapter 3 Evolutionary biology and bipedalism. This is also irrelevant to the purpose of the book, although she tries to draw a connection to psychology, which reviewer Susan M. Solnit is going off on tangents in her usual fashion but not in a way that is particularly interesting.

Chapter 4 Pilgrimages both traditional and revolutionary, including Peace Pilgrim, who walked across the United States seven times on a sort of permanent pilgrimage. Peace Pilgrim walked without injury for almost thirty years but was killed in an automobile accident while riding in a car.

Civil rights walks, marches, and Walkathons are compared to pilgrimage, but not at length. Chapter 5 Meandering labyrinths, despite their one-way route, are symbolic of life journeys and both predate and transcend the simple sin-to-Jesus path of Christianity although Solnit denies this-- she only gives it a passing thought anyway. Sculpture gardens and the stations of the cross are argued to use walking as a symbol, although I don't see any inherent value these human constructions place in walking more than, say, the layout of a Wal-Mart.

There is an argument to be made for walking as a useful the mind at three miles and hour by rebecca solnit for time, choices, or progress. But most of the time people don't think about stuff like that and a utilitarian division of time periods is used to lay out museums. Solnit does not discuss this at all. I recently played a short 2D video game, Passagethat gives walking a weighty, mortal symbolism. Such symbolism is not to be found in any sculpture garden I know of, although it is often nice to walk around in them simply because they are outdoors.

I would be interested if someone built a large exhibit where we are made mindful of our walking. Chapter 6 The founders of the modern walk, as a form of conscious pleasure rather than passive travel, are listed as Wordsworth and Thoreau. In an extremely short-sighted fashion, the legendary walker Matsuo Bashowho lived and wrote over a century prior to Wordsworth, is ignored here, and given short shrift elsewhere in the book.

German authors and naturalists are also ignored see Joseph Amato's review. Thus, walking was founded in the 18th century.

Wanderlust

But the walks of Wordsworth and Thoreau, and Basho for that matter, are only transcribed on paper because they the mind at three miles and hour by rebecca solnit no longer a universal experience. If Solnit is really interested in the "secret history" of walking she should think about the ten thousand generations of happy walkers the human race has the mind at three miles and hour by rebecca solnit, and the marks they left to show their satisfaction with their travels: Before horses, trains, and cars made the destination the focus of the journey, it's simply obvious that the easiest way to get somewhere was to step out the door and get onto the road with your own two feet.

And the fact that these faster modes of transportation were invented shows that most people did not enjoy it. Writers only started to notice the pleasure of walking when it became a novel experience, that is to say, when they were spending most of their time not having to walk. Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone? From this perspective we can understand the successive waves of upper-class British citizens bringing out the pleasure of walking, which Solnit describes in fascinating detail.

Of course, this statement is limited to one's neighborhood, a circle of twenty miles or so around one's home. Traveling great distances without becoming a beggar or getting mugged is, as Solnit rightfully points out, a recent invention. Ironically, the very technology that makes walking such distances unnecessary produces the fruits of civilization that make it possible. Baroque royalty already understood the pleasure of walking to often include the pleasure of leisurely conversation with a friend.

Baroque upper-class estates would have a manicured garden, a larger park for hunting, and the house, which might include a walking path. Of these three things the garden was the most recent invention. In response, either positive or negative, to the creation of "Ornamental Gardening," travelers, for the first time in English history according to Wordsworth, began to seek out "sequestered spots" to enjoy the "sublimity or beauty of the forms of Nature.

Chapter 7 Wordsworth's poems on walking, which you can read for yourself on the Internet. The people Wordsworth met were quite interesting. Two of them walked to France from India: Colonel John Oswald and Walking Stewart.

Chapter 8 Solnit is not fond of Thoreau's obsession with walking in the wild and his disapproval of cities and towns. But all conscious walking for pleasure is a response to things in one's normal, repetitive circuit of life that make one unhappy, so Solnit herself is being biased.

Rather than focusing on her hang-ups with these previous walking writers, which is depressing to read about, Solnit should look at what motivated them and why they found pleasure in their particular form of walking. For Thoreau, industrialization was brand new and pumping smoke into the sky.

He could not very well accept this intrusion on his walks so he did his best to get away from it, while at the same time being so open-minded as to recognize in The Poet that one day they will be integrated into the world's common experience.

Readers of poetry see the factory-village, and the railway, and fancy that the poetry of the landscape is broken up by these; for these works of art are not yet consecrated in their reading; but the poet sees them fall within the great Order not less than the beehive, or the spider's geometrical web. Next, we look at long walks throughout American history, and we gain insight into how the USA is one big ugly sprawl of a country quite unsuitable to being walked across, compared to, say, Britain with its many country paths.

As we move into the late 20th century we also see people walking "around the world" in a disingenuous fashion, but once again Solnit goes into greater detail about her hang-ups than what these people gained from their walks.

Chapter 9 Mountaineering, an exciting practice which many books have been written about and which is philosophically boring. Chapter 10 Daily Mail graphic deploring the loss of the " right to roam ". Various political pro-walking groups are discussed: Due either to Britain's history or its tamed natural beauty, it seems to have quite a few advocates of pleasure-walking.

Chapter 11 Much praise is lavished upon San Francisco, as a specific model for cities in general, for its diversity, aesthetics, colorfulness, and the human interaction that happens frequently on its streets. Unlike rural walking, which environmentalists rally to defend, urban walking is often considered unproductive "loitering" and only libertarians and theorists stick up for it.

American cities are not oriented around walking, but efficient consumption and production. Many people think walking is a waste of time and will drive down the block to get dinner from McDonald's. Artificially constructed parks are built up with no small effort but maintainers of "the peace" like Rudy Giuliani crack down on actual gatherings of people in them.

Big cities, which are impossible to know all the ins and outs of, are described as a wilderness. Some lovely poetry in this chapter about the beauty of old European cities, but it is even better to experience it yourself with a trip to Paris. Chapter 13 Public events on the streets. Ad-hoc demonstrations, political protests, and so forth.

  • The mind, body, and world are linked in walking; this statement, on the other hand, she goes into detail about later, to excellent effect;
  • If Solnit is really interested in the "secret history" of walking she should think about the ten thousand generations of happy walkers the human race has produced, and the marks they left to show their satisfaction with their travels;
  • Of course, this statement is limited to one's neighborhood, a circle of twenty miles or so around one's home;
  • He arrived about ten o'clock at night, completely exhausted, having accomplished the forty miles in record time, but it seemed to me a somewhat curious beginning for a honeymoon;
  • West American sprawl-cities like Tucson, as one walker discovers, can be so car-centric that there are simply no sidewalks across the river through the middle of town-- the bridges don't have them;
  • Personally, I've found that even trains are superior to cars or carpools.

As long as people are walking in the streets, there is the possibility of mass movement; but if people are chained to their desks and cars they will permanently separate from each other and never come into the danger of hearing the mind at three miles and hour by rebecca solnit stranger's voice.

Chapter 14 It is difficult for women to walk in and experience a city, because they will be either mistaken for sluts, or simply pounced upon. The racial tension of walking freely in a city is also touched upon, although it's probably beyond the scope of this book. Chapter 15 Solnit warns us that walking is past its prime. We now finally turn away from the rare cases of San Francisco, Paris, and the countryside, and come to the suburbs and socially dead sprawl-cities where most of us live, and it is here, fifteen chapters in, that the book really comes into its own.

We turn once again to people writing about walking, but now it is not to talk about the vagueness of scenery but the real problems posed by our new, disdainful approach to walking. West American sprawl-cities like Tucson, as one walker discovers, can be so car-centric that there are simply no sidewalks across the river through the middle of town-- the bridges don't have them. Suburbs are built to be glanced at while passing by in a car; architects and suburban planners do not imagine anyone will think hard about walking around in such cities.

The physical world is so secondary to the suburb that some houses have fake porches which are to small to actually sit upon. Solnit looks at an unintentionally revealing Life article which describes the triumph of the train over man's two feet. Personally, I've found that even trains are superior to cars or carpools. The scenery may speed by in a train and become no more interactive than a painting, as she argues, but the quiet of a train provides an opportunity to think to oneself, which is difficult while driving a car or riding in a crowded one.

Finally, there is a cute look at the treadmill and gym, which have stepped in to exercise our muscles with a crude imitation of real work, now that we have divorced ourselves entirely from the material world. New Urbanism, a new type of city planning where cars and walking come together in harmony, is unfortunately ignored in this chapter.

Chapter 16 Postmodern approaches to walking, the most intellectually vapid thing known to man. This chapter is sadly necessary so that angry art critics wouldn't pester her about it but it would be a much better book without this stupid discussion.