"Walking is an essential discipline of thought and spirit. My soul is a traveler afoot in the world. Like Aristotle (whose school was called Peripatetic, after the covered walkway along which he strolled while teaching), I cannot think clearly if I remain too long sedentary," Sam Keen wrote in Hymns to an Unknown God. Richard A. Hasler, a Presbyterian minister who has published five books in the area of preaching, prayer and sports, agrees with those sentiments. In this unusual work, he as assembled the brief inspirational biographies of 50 adventurous walkers including physicians and naturalists, poets and novelists, politicians and teachers, pilgrims and seekers, prophets and social reformers.
It is Hasler's contention the most creative people in history have been walkers. Of course in our car culture, this art is not experienced by all that many people. To the author, walking is a spiritual practice that renews the soul, connects us with the natural world, spurs problem solving, improves self-esteem, heightens alertness, and can be a rewarding aspect of friendship or a love relationship. Others use walking as an opportunity to commune with God or to pray for others. We can learn from Wendell Berry who wrote in his Recollected Essays:
"Today, as always when I am afoot in the woods, I feel the possibility, the reasonableness, the practicality of living in the world in a way that would enlarge rather than diminish the hope of life."
We learn in these pages that Henry David Thoreau felt transformed while sauntering through the natural world. Throughout his lifetime, Carl Jung was an avid walker. William and Dorothy Wordsworth were companion walkers who shared their innermost feelings with each other. Taking a stroll was a regular part of poet Wallace Stevens's daily activities; and walking played a central role for Robert Frost as well. James Michener included "quiet rambles" in his regimen. Theodore Roosevelt's gusto was evident in his point-to-point walks. Dorothy Day prayed while she walked. Hasler makes a good case for walking as a spiritual practice that adds richness and depth to our lives.