Walking about at night

“In England, walking about at night was a crime for a very long time. William the Conqueror ordained that a bell should be rung at 8 p.m., at which point Londoners were supposed to put their fires and candles out and their heads down. Again and again, until modern times, Matthew Beaumont tells us, specifically nocturnal laws were promulgated against draw-latchets, roberdsmen, barraters, roysterers, roarers, harlots and other nefarious nightwalkers — including those ‘eavesdroppers’ who stood listening in the close darkness where the rain dripped from a house’s eaves.

Beaumont reads such laws as being designed to exert political and social control. To walk the city streets at night, by contrast, is to make ‘a libertine assault on what might be called the ideology of good hours’, to pose ‘an intrinsic challenge to the diurnal regime on which, from the end of the Middle Ages, Protestant ideology and the political economy of capitalism partly depended’. Nightwalking is sticking it to the Man.”

Dickens’s dark side: walking at night helped ease his conscience at killing off characters, The Spectator.

Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London by Matthew Beaumont.

Could someone else do it in my place?

“Thoreau wrote in a letter that when considering a course of action, one should ask: ‘Could someone else do it in my place?’ If the answer is yes, abandon the idea, unless it is absolutely essential. But it is still not bound up in the inevitable part of life. Living, in the deepest sense, is something no one else can do for us. You can be replaced at work, but not for walking. That’s the great difference.”

A Philosophy of Walking, Frederic Gros.

The confusions of free will without a clear destination

“Many who’ve written about mazes and labyrinths distinguish between the two of them. Mazes, including most garden mazes, have many branchings and are made to perplex those who enter, whereas a labyrinth has only one route, and anyone who stays with it can find the paradise of the center and retrace the route to the exit. Another metaphorical moral seems built into these two structures, for the maze offers the confusions of free will without a clear destination, the labyrinth an inflexible route to salvation.”

Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit.

Release by walking the emotion

“An Eskimo custom offers an angry person release by walking the emotion out of his or her system in a straight line across the landscape; the point at which the anger is conquered is marked with a stick, bearing witness to the strength or length of the rage.”

Overlay, Lucy Lippard.