The ten Com­mand­ments for Walk­ing

The Oban Times - - News - Iain Thorn­ber iain.thorn­ber@bt­in­ter­

WITH sum­mer round the cor­ner, it won’t be long be­fore walk­ers start ap­pear­ing on the roads.

By walk­ers, I mean those who shoul­der their ruck­sacks and head off on long- dis­tance routes re­fus­ing to thumb a lift or have their lug­gage car­ried ahead of them.

To those who are about to set out here are some old-time rec­om­men­da­tions.

The first Com­mand­ment is – Thou shalt walk, if thou would keep­est well.

Walk­ing is the health­i­est ex­er­cise in the world. It clar­i­fies the mind, and ex­hil­a­rates the spirit. Thought and feel­ing are largely de­ter­mined by the phys­i­cal con­di­tion of he who thinks and feels.

The sec­ond Com­mand­ment is – Thou shalt set out prop­erly equipped.

Travel light. Let your shoes be stout old friends. Carry ev­ery­thing on your back in a ruck­sack, and in the hand noth­ing but a stout stick to swing rhyth­mi­cally to your whistling or your songs, or to strike at a peb­ble or a dog, if you are at­tracted to the one or at­tacked by the other.

The third Com­mand­ment is – Thou shalt have no pro­gramme.

Let each day de­ter­mine it­self. There is no ir­ri­ta­tion like that of be­ing com­pelled to walk to an ex­act timetable. Set out ev­ery morn­ing from your inn with any de­ter­mi­na­tion you please but turn aside any­where, and at any mo­ment, to see some great sight; sit down when you will, re­trace your steps even if you wish to see the great sight again and you will have some hope of hap­pi­ness. But hurry not for the mere sake of get­ting there.

Do not be de­ceived, no man can see the world prop­erly who is ei­ther in a hurry or in pain.

The fourth Com­mand­ment is – With all thy walk­ing thou shalt get knowl­edge.

Knowl­edge comes through the eyes, the ears and all senses. But many a man looks with­out see­ing, hears with­out lis­ten­ing, feels with­out be­ing able to in­ter­pret. The writer of Ec­cle­si­as­ti­cus says: ‘The wis­dom of a learned man cometh by op­por­tu­nity of leisure, and he that hath lit­tle busi­ness shall be­come wise.’

The fifth Com­mand­ment is – Thou shalt choose thy com­pan­ions of the road with the ut­most dis­cre­tion.

Refuse to walk with every­body or any­body. Choose your com­pan­ion of the road wisely. Travel alone rather than ill-mated. The long­est road can be a per­fect idyll to a soli­tary ram­bler – but ev­ery mile­stone re­minds you of the next when your fel­low-trav­eller is a bore.

The sixth Com­mand­ment is – Thou shalt not de­spise the passer-by.

The road is the most demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tion in the world. It be­longs to every­body. The great­est hon­our in hu­man­ity is to be a com­mon way­far­ing man. De­spise no- one. Pass the time of day with all. Ask no names and seek no in­tro­duc­tions. You will find them full of sur­prises, as doubt­less so will they find you. One half of the world does not know how the other half lives. That is the tragedy. But that is the glory of the road – that it be­longs to all, it in­tro­duces us to all sorts and con­di­tions of men, and lev­els all ranks by the sheer ne­ces­sity of cir­cum­stances.

The sev­enth Com­mand­ment is – Thou shalt not de­stroy any­thing that is thy neigh­bour’s.

Wild flow­ers by the hedgerows; song birds in the woods; fish in the most tempt­ing of pools, heather on the hill­sides – these are all God’s gifts to the way­far­ing man. En­joy them all, but de­stroy none. Ev­ery time you do some dam­age on the road you dis­hon­our your com­rades. Leave no lit­ter. Cover up your tracks. But, above all, de­stroy not any­thing that is your neigh­bour’s.

The eighth Com­mand­ment is – Thou shalt of­ten keep si­lence if thou wouldest hear what the voice of na­ture has to say.

Un­til you can pass through the world qui­etly, you will never learn any­thing. You will lose all the bless­ings of the road if you have not the gift of si­lence.

The ninth Com­mand­ment is – Thou shalt blaze thy trail with good deeds.

Some­one is sure to ask if you have passed this way. If so, may the ques­tion bring a word of good com­men­da­tion from ev­ery cot­tage door. Let ev­ery tram­per be­have so on the road for, ‘I shall pass through this world but once; any good, there­fore, I can do or any kind­ness that I can show, to any hu­man be­ing, let me do it now, let me not de­fer it, or ne­glect it, for I shall not pass this way again.’

The tenth Com­mand­ment is – Se­cure good lodg­ings for the night and thy sleep shall be sweet.

The end of the road comes at last. With weari­ness, but with­out fa­tigue, the wan­der­ing man ar­rives at the way­side inn, hun­gry with health and ready to rest. Then the still­ness of the sum­mer night, the en­joy­ment of the even­ing meal, clean sheets and a sound, dream­less sleep. These are the joys of the road which gold can never buy, but which are open to ev­ery way­far­ing man who keeps the com­mand­ments.

Sum­mer will see those who shoul­der ruck­sacks tak­ing to the road.

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