I crowdsourced my topic from twitter this weekend. The results were 57% Walking Around, Observing, 29% Conceptual/Philosophy, and 14% Personal Anecdote. So I took a walk; we’ll see how close I get.
It’s a nice day in Geneva. The temperature is warm but there’s a light, gusting breeze passing through the city and the blue sky is relaxing.
There was a tour group outside my building – the department store I’ve posted pictures of before was where J.J. Rousseau lived at some point. The tour guide was a woman in her mid-20s, with about 50 people around her and three minders in safety vests hovering around the herd. She was well spoken with a slight accent, but there was no joy in teaching and speaking for her, which I can understand. She’d probably given this spiel 100 times. Anyway, the point of that part of the speech was that infant mortality was high back then and JJR killed his mother in childbirth, the first tragedy of his life and the opening of his book.
I was talking to a friend (and her husband, by extension) about how different people react differently to stories. My father died when I was under two years old, and I get that the absence of a parent can shape things for you. But I was more focused on the semantics of what she’d used. JJR didn’t kill his mother any more than Da Vinci’s assistant painted the Mona Lisa because he was in the studio while his master painted. The midwife or doctor killed JJR’s mother, maybe his father when he got her pregnant, or you could blame God or evolution for making our heads too big. JJR was just there for the death. Maybe his books would have been more cheerful if someone had told him.
I followed the road northeast, a block away from the lake, just enjoying the feeling of walking and the aforementioned weather. The streets were reasonably full, and most people were wearing bright shorts and t-shirts or workout clothes. A woman and her SO ran past, both sweaty and tired but talking and comfortable with each other. I thought that was nice. A younger woman or girl – American – was having a loud private conversation on her cellphone that she paused as I passed and resumed when I was five feet away, because, obviously, I couldn’t hear her at that point. After two blocks, I decided I wanted a hamburger, and looked up the address of The Hamburger Foundation on my phone since I’d only eaten at one of their food trucks before. I adjusted course and kept moving.
Another block and I fell into a walking state of meditation. This is what that feels like: you become aware of all your senses at once. Every muscle firing as you walk becomes distinct instead of just background. Air moving past your skin feels like fabric sliding over it, and sound like a change in air pressure. You notice little things like a slight pain above your right knee and adjust the way your foot strikes the ground to stop it. All the while, your motion is getting more fluid, until your footsteps stop making noise and you can hear the clinking of a buckle on a purse, the scrape of a lady dragging her flats slightly on the pavement, the clink of silverware, and subtle changes in smell become strikingly obvious. There’s more to it, and it’s all happening at once like you just hit the HD button on your body, but that’s all I can remember because you also feel high on life from the endorphins hitting your bloodstream.
I’ll write up the rest on Tuesday :) Let me know how I did.