I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.

– Edgar Allen Poe

The internal conversations I have with myself while working on my PhD thesis (on the ‘history of walking’, in a nutshell) often makes me feel on the edge of insanity – not necessarily in a bad way, but perhaps in the way that anyone trying to create anything has to be.

Sometimes, when heavily in a drafting stage of a chapter, I find I’ve been so deep in conversation with words – my own in my head, my own on the typed page, and the words of my sources – that I find conversation in real life (the kind that needs to come out of my mouth and be coherent to listening ears of a breathing human) an alien thing, and most assuredly a struggle. My vocal chords are bike gears that were left out to rust after a rain – resistant to movement, forgetting their function.

Anyway, some paraphrased snippets of the typical daily dialogue the past couple of weeks should you wish to find the madness of your own creating mind welcomed by the madness of mine.

Ok, so – what was the religious value of walking. No, scratch that. Not religious … ‘religious’ implies convention and I mean to be looking at something broader than that. So, what is the SPIRITUAL value of walking seems better … yes? (Yes).

What is the definition of ‘spiritual’ anyways? That seems a vague term, that might encompass too much. Or do I want it to be vague at the start and then define it myself? {*Note to self: look for secondary literature on the historic definition of ‘spiritual’}

Do my walkers even talk about walking in spiritual (<– whatever exactly I mean by that…) terms? Even if they do, how significant is that component of the walking experience over, say, a scientific or political motivation?

Well, this walker does certainly talk about walking as good for the soul. Great! Now…what do I do with that? That is just an observation, description of words put on a page, what was happening during this time that would have made walking something good for the soul … was it unique to this period? Or is that merely a universal value of walking?{*Note to self: look for primary sources prior to and after to my period to see if the spiritual values of walking are similar or different compared to my period}

What time is it? I need tea.

I’ve been reading this same source now for an hour, and I found two mentions of walking in relation to something vaguely spiritual – what is the religious background of this individual? Actually, I don’t think this evidence is all that compelling. So, an hour for nothing … but it is not nothing because I had to read this to know that there was nothing there. Oh dear…

And, I’m hungry again?

Alright, I think I have at least 5 compelling examples of walkers who spoke of walking as something of spiritual significance. What was the religious culture of this period of history? How did it compare to the periods of history that came before? I need to go look for some secondary books and articles about secularization, the ‘crisis of faith’, and the nature of church attendance in this period. Should I do that now? No, make a list, do it later and stay focused on primary sources for the moment.

But, also, what does this discussions about the spiritual nature really say about walking? What do they have to say about the value of landscape to walking? Is it more about the walking or more about the landscape? And what was provoking them to think about the need for spiritual rejuvenation? Is there a common theme among these five examples? Or a few common themes? And what is the history of those themes? Are those themes timeless or particular to this period?

I need tea again. (desperately. always.)

I need to start writing up what I think I’m seeing here, even though I know I need a lot more material to fully develop this chapter. How to start … I guess, I just … have … to … start … typing something? Anything? WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO START.

Let’s just textually analyze and summarize what I’ve found in these primary sources, why I found them compelling, and what I think they have to say about walking in this period of history (<– even though I’m largely speculating until I do some more secondary reading).  Juvenile observations even (a analytical warmup?)

Is this even interesting to anyone but me? Am I reading myself too much into this? Am I trying to argue too many things at once? What is my over arching argument here? What does this particular topic add to my thesis overall? What does this add to what has already been written about the history of walking and landscape and religious culture elsewhere?

What’s my name again?

I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched.

– Edgar Allen Poe


3 thoughts on “insanity

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