Friday, June 5, 2015

Circling for answers

Or just for the sheer simple sake of circling, itself.

I began this day with a question, which I then took (along with the dogs) for a walk through the neighborhood: past the tennis courts and the big pool where we used to take the kids when they were small, through the grounds of the Baptist Church that welcomes "pedestrian use only," and back home again. It's one of many hour-loop variations we've been repeating here ("we" includes a series of paired canine companions and, less frequently since the kids got big, a human family member) almost daily for years now.

So, this morning's question to take out for a stroll: might the Q-&-A format (similar to Sarah Bakewell's in How to Live) be well suited to PW? Something like twenty walks, twenty questions, twenty attempts at an answer? A larger question is whether the question alone, independent of any particular answer, suffices. Is curiosity its own reward? 
("PW" is shorthand for Philosophy Walks, the book I'm writing on the peripatetic life.)

The answer I came up with: yes, maybe. Many good walks circle around a question, and sometimes arrive at the place they started with an answer. Or a few. Just as T.S. Eliot promised.

I equivocate only because I don't want to signal the notion that every good walk must pose a question and seek an answer. Sometimes a good walk is good for its own sake. Most times in fact. Answered questions are gratuities. Not gratuitous, in the sense of unnecessary or unwelcome, but in the sense of being simple gifts over and beyond the intrinsic satisfaction of movement and pleasantly-shifting points of perspective.

PW will ask plenty of questions, but will also allow for the sanity-saving suspension of questions and worries that William James called "moral holidays." It'll also join James in celebrating that charmed (though idiosyncratically-named) state of grace he called the "sentiment of rationality" when the present moment alone suffices, when we feel no compulsion to seek beyond it (and ourselves in it) for completion.

In this present moment, mid-afternoon of a Friday when it finally begins to feel like summer here in the mid-south, I sit out back in my writing shack waiting for the pool to fill. My work is not done, but neither is it nagging. Younger Daughter just drove off in my car, if I want to go somewhere (Happy Hour at Tailgate, maybe?) I'll have to pedal or walk. Or call a pal.

 Correction: I'll get to. Stay or go, I'll then jump in the chilly drink that sits between house and shack and cool down. Life, in this moment, seems more than good enough.

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