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Rebecca Solnit’s “Walking and The Suburbanized Psyche” expounds the alarming ramifications that suburbanization and the devaluation of walking has in today’s society. Suburbanization has forced us to lose a connection to our minds and bodies, which lead us to lose with our imagination along with damage to our mental health. Solnit illustrates the “golden age of walking,” as a time when walking flourished. People scheduled a date for a walk more than for a meal or drink, unfortunately, that time has expired. With the suburbanization of the modern world, walking has become nearly impossible; “it has become a sign of powerlessness or low status…the new urban and suburban design of the contemporary world disdains the walker” (Solnit 56). As suburbanization rules the modern world, we continue to maintain a significant loss in our imagination and creativity; we diminish our privilege to walk, attack our mental and physical health and become bereft of our freedom.
Suburbanization has affected our imagination in many ways and is heading to a path of total loss of sense, vision, and creativity. Suburbanization has twisted our views on walking which leads to a disconnection between our body and our mind resulting in a loss of imagination and creativity. Walking has a way of connecting us to our bodies, it permits us to open up our minds, allowing us to submerge ourselves with nature. Imagination makes it possible for us to utilize that connection with our minds; it will enable us to cope with stressful situations in our lives and to think and enhance our creativity. “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed portrays a crucial importance that imagination holds for our bodies and minds. Cheryl Strayed grew up with an abusive father when she was six years old. Her mother struggled to provide a home for her and her siblings. Later on, her mother ended up passing away from cancer, which led to Strayed’s depression and self-destructive behavior. She then started a journey, a path to recovery and stability. Strayed expresses “perhaps being amidst the undesecrated beauty of the wilderness meant I too could be undesecrated, regardless of what I’d lost or what had been taken from me, regardless of the regrettable things I’ve done to others or myself….” (Strayed 103). Strayed is able to imagine a different mindset, a different life, and most importantly a better future. Her encounter with nature not only allowed her to open her mind and imagination to a better life but also allowed her to believe that life has better things in store for her. Escape, as she points out that “The wilderness had a clarity that included me” (Strayed 103). Not only does walking and submerging with nature spark our imagination, but it also allows us to think coherently and believe in our desires. Suburbanization is taking over, as it robs us of being able to open our mind and imagination to help ourselves physically and mentally. As Solnit expresses “Suburbs are bereft of natural glories and civic pleasures… suburbanization has radically changed the scale and texture of everyday life” (Solnit 55). With our everyday life changing and the values of walking and nature decreasing, it is rare and near impossible for us to be able to connect to our mind and spark our imagination.
In another sense, the modern world has deprived us of a privilege and a blessing. Most people take walking for granted nowadays and do not see it for the benefit that it is. Back in “the golden age” walking was a sacrament and a blessing, that’s now fading away. As Solnit expresses “Walking was a sort of sacrament and a routine… walking as a cultural activity, as a pleasure, like travel, a way of getting around, is fading” (Solnit 55). No longer is walking am enjoyable activity nor is it a way of getting around, our society doesn’t notice how crucial walking is, and unfortunately, we deem it useless. Automobiles are what diminished walking the most, “making it possible to place people’s homes ever farther from work, stores, public transit, schools, and social life” (Solnit 56). With suburbanization, everything is spread far apart making it even harder for walking to be an option. The bigger problem is that our society even refuses to walk walkable distances, even if it’s more effective. We have lost the sacrament of walking to automobiles and the modern suburban world, Solnit mentions “I routinely see people drive and take the bus for remarkably short distances that could be covered more quickly by foot.” Most people don’t realize how much of a privilege, blessing, and the enormous role it plays in their lives until they have lost it, choosing a drive over a simple short walk that is quicker, healthier and more efficient for you is what is leading our society into a crisis. “The Chair,” by Dave Dawson perfectly represents why walking is for everyone a blessing and a sacrament. Dawson enlisted in the army the week after he turned eighteen years old, he was the average guy joining basic training in the military. After joining extra assignments, he gained experience and moved on to combat missions and other higher-level military duties. A few weeks before finishing his tour and getting ready to go back home Dawson was hit with a tragedy, while walking a “secured” traversed field, he experiences a sharp pain in his back dropping him to the floor and taking away his ability to walk. Dawson described the area as a beautiful flowered field, and while expressing its beauty his ability to walk taken away from him, revealing that walking is a blessing that we all have and should take advantage of before we lose to ability to do so. Instead of driving everywhere and placing walking as our last option, we should use that to appreciate the privilege and blessing that we have spark our imagination and our minds, making us physically and mentally healthier.
Freedom stands as the most important thing to society, everyone wants their freedom, and if that is threatened people get mad. It’s quite ironic how we are all willing to go the distance for our freedom, yet we choose not to have it every day of our lives. We restrain ourselves on a daily basis; we can go anywhere anytime we like because we are “free” however being free means nothing when there is nowhere to go. Solnit refers to Kays Asphalt nation “Children watched four times as much television because the outdoor world offered them a few adventures and destinations” (Kay 25), how are these children free yet so restricted? Cars took away the privacy of space, public building become surrounded by conventional design and traffic, leaving nowhere to go and putting cuffs on our freedom and our society. Developments of televisions, transport, and lack of public or private space have made it less necessary to go out into the real world, and we have adapted to the deterioration of open spaces and social conditions. Our freedom gets more restrained day by day, and we choose to sit by and allow it to happen by devaluing walking and not seeing its crucial advantages. Giving up our freedom to suburbanization and advancements our imagination and liberty will slowly fade, along with our privilege to walk, and that is where we lose all hope.
The manner we view walking in, and our adaptation to suburbanization must be changed, to save the creativity and the society of the human race. We must take realize the dangers and the harmful ramifications that the lack of walking has on our community. The restraint of freedom, loss of imagination and connection to one’s mind, and of a sacrament must be brought to attention and fixed if we want to save our society from the modern world take over. We must walk as much as we can, and learn again how to connect ourselves with our minds, submerge with nature and recover our imagination and health of souls and bodies once again, and we must reclaim the golden age of walking.
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