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Walking on uneven ground

May 21, 2013

Something changes in mind and body when we get off the flat surfaces of roads, pavements and floors and walk on the uneven ground that was there before. The body rebalances, adjusts, as one foot steps down and to the right, angled away a bit at the ankle, then the other steps up and takes the weight. The mind begins to follow the lay of the land, perhaps not consciously, and may even cease its disembodied perambulations and enjoy being at one with the body’s movement through space for a while.

Flattening off the land, as well as any other surface we walk upon in the modern world, certainly makes travel faster. This is especially helpful if commerce is the aim. But it seduces the mind into an unrealistic faith in our ability to keep on moving ahead. Getting there (wherever) efficiently, moving securely, achieving stuff, maintaining balance.

The organic cycles of life and death, light and darkness, up and down are so easily forgotten when we stick to the flat surfaces of modern life. We need to be reminded that life rolls in hills and troughs, that stepping forward can throw us off balance, that we can right ourselves and enjoy the process and play of moving in unmodified nature.

Michel Serres commented on this once, pointing out that the direct lines of trade had replaced the adventurous movement of an Odysseus. We may lose everything, in the end; but we should always retain our desire to inhabit our true home for this life, in this body, our Ithaca beyond the sometimes monstrous pitfalls of the world.

The earth is covered in uneven surfaces, which open our body/minds to flow. Let’s not be domesticated into a false sense of security – and boredom – by the success of our flattening exercise.

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