On my birthday I got a book called “A Philosophy of Walking” by Fredric Gros. Under the first chapter entitled “Walking is Not a Sport” Gros explained that walking is rather a thinking process supporting this premise by giving examples of different philosophers like Rousseau and Nietzsche who walked in order to think. I found the ideas mentioned in the book quite obvious, because walking is a crucial part of my life. Back in college, I used to walk around to think of my design assignments, whether it is in a random or a specific district. One day I tried to experience the feeling of escape. Starting off by running away, then slowing down to recognize the place I have reached until the point of wandering around and exploring the area. I found myself in quest for a new feeling. A certain feeling, or a sense of space was my destination.
Walking is not a sport, however, there are sports of long durations, like golf and fishing when scoring depends on the players' long interaction with their landscape. Aimless walkers and wanderers do not score, but they construct thoughts, find new places and coincide with people they know. There is a city inside every human being, it defines our characters and controls our behaviors. The Arabic word for behavior is “Sulouk” which also means passing through. If we are how we behave, then we are where we walk.
The words “walk” and “wander” are influenced by rolling and the wind from Old English. These origins focus mostly on the dynamics of these acts. In Arabic, walking (al-mashi) literally means moving in progression, it is also used for the news when it is well known. “Mashiya” is what we call animal herds in Arabic, because it keeps breeding and reproducing. Walking then is a continuous act of building an internal city, perception defines its scale and its form keeps changing according to our location. The internal city is built with illusions of proximity and is densified with our experiences, and when we walk, we continue to build. Building a city is a collective act, and for the actual city to evolve, its dwellers must extend their internal cities to the actual one and communicate their ways through it.
Walking can be a beautiful metaphor of time; it is nonlinear and requires stamina. When I walk, I don't claim the land I pass by as mine but I acquire instead its dimensions and measures to adapt to the elastic field of thoughts and memories. These measures are the tools to form questions and evaluate possibilities. The real labour while walking is to resist the natural tendency to familiarize landscapes and happenings.
In Kuwait, sitting is more popular than walking. The dominant activities are gathering and fishing, and the daily routine depends on driving the car. Driving is not just a medium that gets you from point A to B in Kuwait. The car is used abundantly for aimless touring around the city, maybe the car wanderer would stop and sit by the sea for a while, and drive back home. Sitting can be understood within the concept of the internal city as dwelling in a certain time or thought. It's a dangerous stagnant state when the city is not changing, neither in us nor on the ground.
What about new projects and the many cities coming up? Are they illusions of growth? They are alien acts of development if societal demands are not taken into consideration. Engagement is crucial for city development, and the knowledge required for such engagement is not written in books nor sensed behind the wheels, it is acquires outside, in the open air, down the streets and between narrow alleys; an ever changing curriculum.