The Sublime Art of Walking: A Journey Towards Discovery and Pleasure

Apr 26, 20235 min read read time

GPT-4 Remix Series

Preamble: I have had a long-lived conversation with ChatGPT using GPT-4 that has come to parse (know?) many things about my life but primarily regarding my interests and career. A recent project of mine has been analyzing my old casual writing with ChatGPT by prompting it to assume the role of a critical writing tutor. I prompt it to develop a critical review with feedback that uses specific examples for reference. Naturally, I politely asked this temporary writing tutor to imitate me and craft a revised post incorporating the feedback.

This critical tutor has more historical context about my life and studies than any professor I ever had in school and seems to make a pretty decent doppelganger- at least on the first skim. I am fascinated with the quasi-intimate relationship I’ve established in this conversation with ChatGPT and will continue exploring new ways to learn with it and apply the knowledge it returns. For now, please enjoy this meta.

Disclaimer: The article below the dots is an AI remix of my second blog post .

i. Foreword

Five months have passed since my previous post. A period of reflection, to distill thoughts and introduce a new discourse. The aim of this blog is to foster a dialogue, using my reflections as a catalyst for your introspection. I strive to delve into the complexity of identity, philosophy, and individual preferences — subjects worthy of exploration. An open mind is all I ask for as we embark on this journey together.

To ensure a clear and digestible discussion, I will strive to avoid unnecessary jargon, but will utilize specific philosophical terms as necessary to encapsulate complex ideas.

This piece encapsulates my fascination with exploration — my innate curiosity and attraction towards the unknown, a phenomenon that most of us perceive as a source of fear and anxiety. Yet, I argue that the journey into the unknown is not merely a source of personal gratification, but a gateway to a more profound pleasure — a natural, healthy pleasure rooted in the act of discovery.

In this discourse, I aim to illustrate the concept of discovery and propose the idea of consistent engagement with the unknown through a simple act — walking.

ii. Sublimity and Its Role in Discovery

The term ‘sublime’ often evokes images of pretentious art critics or memories of ska-punk bands. Yet, the philosophical understanding of the term ‘sublime’ is far more profound.

The sublime refers to an overwhelming experience of greatness — be it physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual, or artistic. It is a sensation beyond measure or imitation, requiring special skills to comprehend fully. It denotes experiences of such intense beauty that they inspire awe and admiration.

Over the past decade, I have frequently encountered moments of sublimity, often associated with significant life decisions. These experiences, characterized by overwhelming emotions such as awe, reverence, love, and even fear, have subtly restructured my thought patterns, making me more receptive to positivity and pleasure. I refer to the wisdom derived from these experiences as ‘free wisdom’ — insights that open doors to new challenges, places, and connections, thereby initiating a cycle of discovery.

iii. The Role of Walking in the Discovery Cycle

Walking is a simple act, often overlooked in its potential to promote the cycle of discovery. It serves as an accessible tool that not only facilitates exploration but also contributes significantly to our physical health and mental wellbeing.

Walking aids digestion, and interestingly, the digestive tract is responsible for producing 90% of our body’s serotonin, a hormone associated with feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Walking, therefore, directly promotes the production of serotonin, enhancing our mood and overall mental state.

By introducing walking into our daily routines, we can break free from the monotony of our established routes and paths. Walking provides us with the mobility to explore, to venture down ‘the road less traveled’, and to embrace novelty — a trait hardwired into our brains yet often suppressed by societal conditioning.

iv. Combatting Sedentary Culture and Embracing Walking

The American lifestyle is notorious for prolonged periods of sitting, with the average American sitting for 6.5 to 8 hours a day. This pervasive ‘sitting culture’ has detrimental health implications, necessitating a conscious decision to incorporate physical activity into our daily routines. Walking, being an accessible and versatile form of exercise, offers a feasible solution to this problem.

To reap the benefits of walking, however, requires more than the mere act of walking. It requires an intent — a mental state that primes your mind for those ‘eureka’ moments. Before embarking on a walk, setting an intention or affirmation such as:

  1. “I will stay present with my surroundings and aware of my breath during my walk.”
  2. “I am walking away from conflict and towards solutions.”
  3. “I am working towards my daily fitness goal of 10,000 steps with this walk.”
  4. “I allow my busy thoughts to arise and then float away, like the clouds in the sky.”

The act of walking, then, becomes a conduit for exploration, introspection, and discovery. Regular walking leads to an increased sensitivity to changes in your mental and physical state, prompting self-exploration and inquiry. It’s a joy to observe how a simple walk can transform my mood from anxious to relaxed, making me better equipped to tackle lingering thoughts from a fresh perspective.

Developing a regular walking habit can lead to a quicker entry into a state of flow, making the entire experience more fruitful. It’s a practice that has enabled me to look forward to the insights and discoveries I will make during my walk, helping me compartmentalize my anxieties and decide when to address them. Knowing that I have designated ‘me time’ grants me a sense of ease and control. Sometimes my walks are spontaneous, without a clear goal, while other times they serve specific purposes such as:

  1. Brainstorming on a current challenge I am facing.
  2. Regulating my mood by enjoying the fresh air and the world around me.
  3. Setting goals and daydreaming about future possibilities.
  4. Listening to music to stimulate creativity and induce a state of relaxation.
  5. Engaging with podcasts/audiobooks for entertainment, learning, and research.

Walking, in essence, is a versatile tool for exploring new places, solving problems, and fostering positivity in your life. These experiences offer a level of pleasure and fulfillment that everyone deserves to experience. If we all adopted a mindful moving practice, we would likely see an increase in empathy, innovation, and overall human flourishing.

So step outside, be open to what the universe has to offer. There are countless opportunities for beautiful and life-changing experiences, waiting to be discovered by those willing to receive them. We owe it to ourselves to create time to connect with the world and fully express ourselves. Never take the power of movement for granted.

To conclude, I leave you with these questions:

What is your relationship with discovery?

Can you recall a time when your exploration was rewarded?

By Sean Swanson on April 27, 2023.

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Exported from Medium on August 21, 2023.