Pedestrianism As A Spiritual Lifestyle
I am a lifelong pedestrian. I have never owned a car or even had a driver's license. Having spent most of my life in suburban New England, many find this lifestyle of mine unusual. Some even find it provocative. All I can say is it's the decision that works best for me.
As one who suffers from severe anxiety at times, not to mention fits of anger and a poor sense of direction, I can't even begin to imagine changing this about myself.
I have met many people who feel exactly the opposite way. They can't imagine themselves not driving. Many of these people project their views onto me by feeling sorry for me for not being a licensed driver, as if it wasn't a personal choice to begin with- as if to say that because of this state of my lifestyle that that somehow means I'm helpless or poor or lazy. And most of these people (well-intentioned I'm sure) use one of these assumptions to convince me to get my license. Of course, I'd much rather they just save their breath because no one is going to convince me of this.
Now, I'm not totally closed minded. I'm sure someone will eventually convince to start driving, officially, if that someone is married to me and is at least a few months pregnant already. But of course then it won't be about persuading or convincing me. I'll just go out and do all the proper procedures before she says something like, "Jon, get your license already, because you're totally out of your mind if you think I'm driving myself to the hospital when I'm finally ready to hatch this offspring of ours".
Until then, I'll insist on enjoying the personal and economic freedom that comes with what I've chosen. I enjoy feeling the ground beneath my feet and I'm grateful for being able to to look at what's around me as I move about the world. I realize that many find driving to be a necessity, so I don't mean to imply that I'm judging all of you for this. However, it really kills me that many people have now begun to follow my example not for the virtues of pedestrianism but for its economic convenience. With the economy the way it's been lately, I don't want to downplay the cost-cutting advantages of this decision but there is so much more to be gained by abandoning the everyday use of an automobile. I came up with five of them:
I'm sure many of you already know that stress is a killer. It can cause your immune system to deteriorate or at least create physical ailments from time to time because of the relationship with the mind and the body. With that in mind, I don't think it's any secret to anybody that operating a motor vehicle is a great source of stress. Road rage, I believe, is what most people call it. Despite the fact that a person's concern for those who drive carelessly may, at times, be well-founded, most of the road rage I've witnessed is self-inflicted. A good friend of mine is a prime example. He has a tendency to put himself and others in danger in retaliation for small crimes like cutting him off or 'driving too slow'. This is a guy who loves to drive a good ten or twenty above the speed limit and insists that the person in front of him doing the speed limit is the one at fault. He loves to yell and scream at people, tailgate them, impose whiplash on himself by riding up to the other car's bumper and then slamming on the brake, all the while giving the finger to the offending driver. He is a good friend and I love him dearly, but I have for the most part stopped riding with him out of concern for my own sanity. Also, I don't really eat a particularly healthy diet and I still smoke and drink. Therefore, I feel the exercize I get from constantly walking helps to offset the potential consequences of my bad habits which, I hope, I will sooner or later abandon.
One often has much greater control of their own body than they do a massive metal machine. Granted, the possibility of being run over or hit by a falling tree is still present, but it's much more difficult to put yourself or others in danger if you're simply walking. Also, you can walk down the street AND talk on the phone without being a major safety threat. And if something upsets you, there's usually a safe place to stop and cool off for a bit. The friend I used as an example earlier also applies to safety. If someone jumps a stop sign, he has a tendency to speed up and try to crash into the offending driver just to teach them not to run a red light or a stop sign. I realize that this is an extreme example, but people like this do exist and since they obviously don't like themselves very much, the extent to which they'd be concerned for other drivers should also be obvious.
3. CONVERSATION STARTER
I realize that this is a lighter topic than the previous two, but it factors into my life almost daily. It seems that, at least several times a week, I meet someone new who recognizes me for being 'the person who walks everywhere'. This usually leads to this person wanting to now every single little detail of my life that lead me to this decision. They often listen with starry eyes and the kind of fascination that one would think I were describing a UFO or Sasquatch sighting. The reaction is often the same, too, as they usually say something like, 'that's cool', as if they don't really believe a word I'm telling them but feel the need to be civil, nonetheless. In turn, I am equally fascinated by them.
A lot of people like to twist this around and say that HAVING a car brings freedom, but I totally fail to see the logic in that. Personally, I can't imagine feeling any sort of freedom while being confined to car maintenence, oil prices, gas prices, auto insurance and just the general mayhem of the road. I have become very adept at utilizing varied degrees of public transportation in order to reconcile this. Were I living in Manhattan or China this would be considered normal, but in Fairfield County, CT, this is often regarded as absolutely bizarre.
. . . and finally,
I find that this decision allows me to be more in touch with that which is around me and the lack of distractions associated with it gives me the ability to reflect on that which puzzles me. I do not feel I would be able to acheive this if I were constantly concerned with even the basic rules of driving. Also, I feel that this decision was simply the right one for me and that, in turn, has enabled me to work through issues of anger, resentment and confusion and, for that, I feel it is well worth giving up the 'conveniences' associated with being a licensed driver.
I want to point out that I'm not asking everyone to be like me in this sense. I simply feel that my point of view on this particular issue goes without being adequately represented.
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