Paul Theroux: “The best antidote to being housebound is to take a long walk.”

From a story “A Wanderer’s Guide to Staying Home” by Paul Theroux in the Wall Street Journal:

In these anxious times, befuddled by uncertainty, we are told not to travel or we’ll get sick. But travel has traditionally been associated with risk and the unknown, and often with illness; yet the warnings are wickeder than that: These days, travel is emphatically linked to death. There are healthy alternatives—the car trip, the bike ride, the long walk—but what if you heed the directive to stay put?. . .

Sulking indoors for the duration of this crisis is an obnoxious thought, and it calls up images of other plagues—the atmosphere of Albert Camus’s novel “The Plague,” the miasma at the end of Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice,” and perhaps the most vivid and violent plague description of all, that recounted by Thucydides in his “History of the Peloponnesian War,” the fatalism, misery, lawlessness and fear of the plague in Athens. . . .

The best antidote to being housebound, the answer to the licensed scolders, is to take a long walk. It was always Thoreau’s habit—his essay “Walking” is inspirational. Walking was William Wordsworth’s passion (at age 70 he climbed Helvellyn, in the English Lake District). Early in his life, the director Werner Herzog walked 500 miles from Munich to Paris to visit the sickbed of fellow director Lotte Eisner. “Tourism is a mortal sin,” Herzog said later, “but walking on foot is a virtue.”

Walking isn’t challenged by the CDC or the government. It is an expression of absolute freedom and it can be accomplished in a safe and solitary way, near home or in the solitude outside of town. One of walking’s greatest benefits is that it allows us time to reflect—on our lives, on our fate, on the state of the world, and figure things out. Solivitur ambulando is the classical prescription, the noble motto of the pedestrian. “It is solved by walking.”

Speak Your Mind