All about Walking and Habits and Keeping your Balance in a Topsy-turvy World.

by Gene Franks

Note: This article first appeared in Gazette #38 (Spring of 1992).

Ultimately, there is no way to escape taking responsibility for ourselves.Tarthang Tulku.

He who stands on tiptoe is not steady.Lao-Tsu.

It is not difficult to accumulate great quantities of knowledge from many great teachers. What is difficult is to practice that knowledge in one’s life. One who is too enthusiastic in the pursuit of much knowledge may obstruct his or her realization of even a small amount of it.Master Hua Ching Ni.

The performers and composers [of modern popular music] don’t necessarily believe in what they’re saying or what they’re doing, but they know that if you write a song about love it’s got a 3,000 per cent better chance of going on the radio than if you write a song about celery.–Frank Zappa.

The quotation above from Frank Zappa has nothing at all to do with this article. I added it because I like it, and because it never fits with anything else I write. And because this article consists of my own songs about celery. It’s stuff I’ve always wanted to write but thought, probably correctly, that no one would want to read.

The quotations about balance are there because when this article was first published, in Pure Water Gazette #38 (Spring, 1992), it appeared alongside a very good article by Dr. Ralph C. Cinque called “Let Your Body Find Its Own Balance.” Dr. Cinque had just published a book called Quit for Good: How to Break a Bad Habit, which conveniently led my article to where it was trying to go:

The Best of Servants, The Worst of Masters

Habit is the ballast that chains the dog to his vomit.–Samuel Beckett.

Samuel Beckett’s words will be especially meaningful to those who hang around with dogs a lot, because they have surely witnessed the unsavory canine custom of immediately repeating dietary mistakes. When a dog’s stomach rejects something he has eaten, man’s best friend stubbornly overrules nature and eats it again. Because of  habit, we do the same.

If we were not chained to our past by habit, we would simply renegotiate our contract with the world each morning. We would say, “My mouth tastes like crap today because of those cigarettes I smoked yesterday; I’m not going to smoke anymore” and mean it. Instead, like dogs chained to our vomit, we go on day after day, year after year, doing things we don’t approve of or even enjoy because habit, “the worst of masters,” compels us.

Beckett’s definition says also that habit is ballast. Large ships must take on a heavy substance, often water, to provide stability and keep them upright. Without it they would float willy-nilly or even capsize. Without the ballast of habit, our lives would be unbearable. According to Dr. Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics), “Fully 95 per cent of our behavior, feeling, and response is habitual.” Habit makes most of our small decisions and performs most of our routine actions. Tomorrow when you put on your shoes, notice that you have a habit of putting on one or the other first. Life would be unimaginably complicated if we had to begin each day with a weighty decision about which shoe to put on first and which leg to put into our trousers first. Activities like playing the guitar and driving a car would be torturous if not totally impossible without habit, “the best of servants.” Even our ethical behavior is essentially habit. Most of us have formed the habit of being honest, so we do not have to decide with each new transaction if we are going to play it straight or try to cheat someone.

The Zalenski Principle

Imagine you just got a job in the Accounting Department of the Ace Funnel Company. Ace is a very big place. They have 75 people in the Accounting Dept. alone. You see right away that their accounting system is hopelessly archaic, so you step right in to tell the department chief, who worked his way up through the ranks and has been department head for seventeen years, all about the superb new accounting methods you learned about in college, confident he’ll adopt your new program.

Though this will sound pessimistic, your chances of radically changing eating habits that you have been following since childhood are about the same as getting the old accounting Chief to throw out his system and adopt yours. In both cases, deep ruts are hard to get out of. Hard, but not impossible.

There is wisdom in resistance to change both in the body and the office. Imagine the chaos if the Old Chief adopted the reforms suggested by each of the 331 college-trained accountants he’s hired over the years. The old system may not be perfect, but at least everyone understands it and has learned to adapt to it. Like the Old Chief, the body defends its traditions. Imagine the chaos if you completely revamped your eating habits with every diet plan you read in a magazine. The gravy-and-biscuit plan you learned as a child may not be ideal, but your body has adjusted to it and is suspicious of radical changes. This is why “diets” almost never have any lasting value. Although Dr. Eatwell’s Grapefruit and Poached Egg Plan may sound wonderful to your rational brain, you won’t be able to stick with it long because the Old Chief deep within you will find a way to veto it and put you back on the Biscuit and Gravy Plan he’s familiar with.

Now, the really interesting thing about all this is how the enforcers of tradition deep within us go about keeping us in line. When you think about it, changing what you eat should be very simple. If you had to pick up a Greyhound bus, that would be hard; but simply eating a grapefruit rather than a fried egg, or not putting a cigarette to your lips, should be very easy. No special strength or talent is needed to not eat a fried egg. yet we all know that the fried egg question, to eat or not to eat, can be an excruciatingly complex dilemma. It holds, in fact, our most intimate contact with the most basic philosophical issues of all time: “Who am l?” and “Who’s running things?” This is the old question of free will vs. pre-destination that clerics and philosophers have fretted over for so long.. Is there really an “I” who makes choices and carries out decisions, or are we just piano keys that bounce around at the whim of some great unseen Player?

At the personal level, you make a rational decision to raise your right hand above your head and you do it. This proves you can make choices and act, doesn’t it?  But it does not explain what made you want to raise your right hand. Did you initiate the act, or was it the Old Chief behind the scenes whispering in your ear?

For some time something has caused me to believe that “I think, therefore I am” should more correctly be “Something makes me think that I think, therefore it is, or thinks that it is.” For some time something has caused me to believe also that we are totally free to act yet at the same time our actions are totally pre-determined. That I could never think through this paradox did not stop me from believing it, and I got very excited a few years ago when I discovered that Arthur Koestler in his book Janus: A Summing Up has come up with a pretty fair explanation of all this in his concept of “holons.” I hope you’ll read it.

Assuming you have decided, or something has made you decide, that you don’t want to eat fried eggs anymore, how do you get yourself to not do it?

An interesting approach to this problem that I have experimented with is one I learned from my old friend the late Edward Zalenski. I call it the Zalenski Principle. Ed, a mathematician, linguist, superb human being, and passionate student of the mind’s machinations–a man who had himself psychoanalyzed not because he had “problems” but because he found his mind to be fascinating–believed that our poor performance in dealing with inner inertia is due mainly to lack of practice and self-confidence. After the third attempt at reform fails, we throw up our hands in despair. Ed believed that you can gain rational control of your life by following a specific exercise.

Here’s how he said to do it. Choose a very easy change in your life. Do it and keep doing it. No matter how easy and how simple, purposefully carry out the change you have selected. When your first change is thoroughly established, pick another change, slightly more difficult, and put it in practice; then another, and another, each successively more difficult. In Ed’s words, each time that you decide to do something and then do it, there is an imperceptible click in your brain and you gain self-confidence. Like everything else, success is a habit.

You might begin this system by saying to yourself: “Up until now, habit has caused me to put on my left shoe first each morning. But now,  I ‘m taking control of this activity, and from now on, no matter what else happens, I’m putting on my right shoe first.” Clearly, the change to right-shoe-first isn’t going to improve your life a lot, but according to Zalenski, each time you perform the action you reinforce the habit of making up your mind and sticking to your decision. You might need several practice projects before you ‘re ready to tackle fried eggs.

There are two pitfalls to this system I discovered through experience. First, you must distinguish between projects and goals. Goals are long-range aspirations–things you hope to achieve. A goal for a salesman might be: “I will sell six cars this week.” Projects are always easily achievable if you can just get yourself to do them: “I won’t eat any donuts this week.” Work on projects, not goals. Otherwise you set yourself up for failure. 

The second pitfall concerns what I call “obsolete desires.” Your wants and needs change, so don’t lock yourself into a long-term project that will be incompatible with you of the future. The safest thing is to stick to the “one day at a time” Alcoholics Anonymous system and renew your project every day. Even with donuts, it’s best not to run your project over a week at a time, because some university researcher with a General Foods grant is sure to announce that after years of animal research he has proven that cancer is caused by lack of donuts. My own third or fourth Zalenski project was “No matter what, I’ll eat breakfast every day.” This seemed like a good idea, since at the time I was trying to free myself from the terrible habit of eating most of my food at night. I did not foresee that a few months later I would get interested in fasting, and you can’t fast and break-fast on the same day. I got talked out of my project by Emerson and his dictum about a foolish consistency being the hobgobblin of little minds. Or was it the Old Chief quoting Emerson to get me back on his pig-out-at-night plan?


Self-deification, or How to Become Wonderful

One must learn to love oneself . . . with a wholesome and healthy love . . . that one may endure to be with oneself and not go roving about.–Zarathustra (via Nietzsche).

Through practice of the Zalenski Principle I have developed a will power of steel. I now have complete self-control. The world is at my feet. Wealth and power beyond measure . . . sleek automobiles, beautiful women–whatever I want is mine. Send a large handful of money today for my booklet that tells how you, too,  can develop iron-fisted control over your life! Do it today! Don’t be miserable another minute!

The truth is, alas, that my will power is still a lot more like cardboard than steel. About three on the one to ten scale. It is true that I did many Zalenski projects, but the result was not an iron-fisted control over my habits; instead, I fell prey to yet another habit–the habit of doing projects. By the mid-1970s 1 had projects for everything What I read. What, when and how I ate.  How I spent my leisure time. How I got to work. What radio station I listened to.  How many almonds I got to eat per day.  My whole life became a project. A girlfriend of the time, in gleeful derision, called it my Self-Deification Plan.

This was a great time for me, not because I accomplished everything I tried, but because I tried a lot of different things. Life, someone recently explained to me, is like a big clothing store that is filled with garments of every size, shape, fabric, and color. The garments are habits. The word habit, in fact, originally meant garment, and we still refer to the strange clothes people wear when they ride horses as a “riding habit.”  Habits are, literally, the garments of the personality. They are the practices that define us. “First we make our habits, then our habits make us,” John Dryden said.  And we have often heard, “The clothes make the man.” The art of living, then, is to find habits that fit you and suit you and to keep them  and nurture them. It is equally important quickly to reject and discard ill-fitting and unsuitable habits.

The value of the Zalenski projects for me was that they let me sort through a large variety of life’s offerings–to try on things I normally would not have tried. Some things that I tried clearly did not fit. I vowed to commit Jane English’s beautiful translation of the Tao Te Ching to memory, but the Old Chief would not hear of it. Try as I would, I forgot the first poem before I could learn the second. Other efforts fit me so well that they became important parts of my life. A project to use my car only on weekends resulted in several years of riding my bicycle 75 miles a week to work.

Try It!

The great Hatha teacher Sir Paul Dukes said that he struggled for years with the enigma of “why all the great religions insist on the association of prayer and fasting” until one night the “childishly simple” solution presented itself to him during sleep. “It was, merely, to try! It was as if a voice said clearly, ‘No man can give you the answer, you must find it for yourself, by experimentation.”‘

It was the Dukes Try it! logic that led to the greatest of my projects. I had noticed that the periods of greatest happiness in my life were the times when I walked a lot. Some of my best memories were sunny afternoons walking home from work. Probably I had always walked more than most people,  but it had never been a priority in my life. In December of 1975 1 decided to do an experiment to find out what would happen to my body and especially to my mind if I took a walk every day over a long period of time. Therefore the project: “During 1976, no matter what else happens, I will take a walk of at least 2 miles each day. No exceptions, no substitutions.” Two miles was no big deal. I often walked a lot farther than that. The hard part was doing it every day, since like most people, I believed I didn’t have time.

The Great Walking Project

The first few walks were hardest: walks on cold, windy nights after a long day at work. By the end of three weeks the habit of taking a daily walk was formed, and soon walking became such a regular part of my day that not doing it didn’t occur to me, just as it didn’t occur to me to stop when 1976 ended and 1977 started or when 1977 became 1978. At this writing (2/92), the string of consecutive walks that started in January of 1976 is intact. That’s about 5,900 consecutive walks without a miss.

In addition to putting me squarely in Emerson’s “Little Minds” column, this means that there hasn’t been a single day during the last 16 years when I felt too bad to take a 2-mile walk. Hepatitis and a prolonged, painful heel spur were the main challenges. But the great achievement, to me at least, is that not once during the past 16 years have I felt so low and had so little respect for myself that I said, “Screw it, I don’t have time to take a walk today.” That was definitely my tendency in the pre-1976 days. My conclusion to the experiment is that regular, sustained outdoor physical exercise does indeed promote a positive, healthy mental environment.

[As of this revision, done in February  of 2000, the string of walks is still intact and covers 24 years. I estimate the number of consecutive daily walks to be somewhere upward of 8,700.]

[As of this revision, done Sept. 1, 2008, the string of walks is still intact and now covers 31 years and 8 months. Consecutive walks total 11,569.  There’s been no real challenge to the string since 2000, although I’ve started defining a walk a bit differently.  I’m 69 at this writing and have a slight limp.  I rationalize that with a limp my distance traveled is partially sideways and sideways walking is as significant as straight-ahead walking from the point of view of exercise. Therefore, it’s now the time spent and my perception of the exercise accomplished rather than the distance covered that I go by.]

[As of this revision, done the last day of December of 2009, the string of walks is still intact and covers 33 years.  The number of consecutive daily walks is, I calculate, 12,053.  I am now 71 years old, and the nature of the walks has changed.  I don’t go as fast or as far as I used to, but I go every day.  On cold and rainy days I take the easy way and walk at the mall. I rationalize not walking as far as I used to by saying that the slight limp I have now causes me to walk about 1/5 as far sideways as I do forward.  Walking sideways should count for something.]

[As of this revision, done the last day of December of 2016, the string of walks is still intact and now covers 40 years. That’s 14,610 consecutive walks by my reckoning. I am now 78 years old and the length of the walks is shorter. I think of it more as time than distance, looking at at least half an hour as acceptable. I rationalize that since it’s more work to walk a mile now than it used to be to walk two, a mile should be enough. My health is very good, although I move a lot slower than I used to. Hernia surgery a couple of years ago presented a challenge, but I kept the string going by taking two walks the day before the surgery. If that’s cheating, so be it: it’s my project, so I make the rules. There have been a couple of sprained ankles.  The last one was really bad and consequently I took some shorter walks with a cane and I had to invoke the time vs. distance rule.]

[As of this revision, made on my birthday, December 14, 2019, the string of walks goes on.  At the end of the year, a couple of weeks away, the total should be about 15,705, spanning 43 years. I turned 81 today. Following the reasoning mentioned above, I don’t worry about the distance covered any more but rather make sure I spend half an hour or so a day walking. My main health issue now is balance. And vision.  Cataract surgery coming up soon.  No  contact with medical treatment since hernia surgery in 2014. I work six days a week, 8 hour day, but not very hard. I like what I do and have no plan for quitting. The biggest challenge in walking now is balance. Falling down not only hurts; it’s embarrassing.  Crossing busy streets is a challenge. I now walk more in parks than on the streets.]

[As of this revision, made the final day of 2020, the string of walks is intact. I can’t say that Covid challenged it; in fact, having fewer alternative activities made walking more desirable.  Main issues now (I just turned 82)  are balance, weakness in my lower legs, and overall lack of stamina, meaning I just can’t go as fast or as far as I used to. I feel very fortunate that my joints all work well and I have none of the usual knee or hip issues that older people often have.  I had cataract surgeries on both eyes this year and I see better, but balance is still the big challenge. I haven’t asked for a medical opinion on balance, or anything else for that matter.  Walks are now almost always at parks (I hate crossing streets!) and I always walk during the daylight hours.  Current totals: 16,071 consecutive walks over a 44 year period. By the way, at 82 I still work full time, but not very hard.]

[This revision is being made on December 16, 2022, two days after my 84th birthday. I ended the string of consecutive walks on May 16, 2022. It covered more than 45 years of my life, from ages 38 to 83, and consisted of some 16,572 consecutive walks. I ended the string voluntarily on May 16 after deciding that walking was becoming so stressful  that it was better to call it quits. I reported earlier that balance and lower leg strength were the biggest challenges. I had taken several falls. Walking was becoming more difficult–so difficult that I no longer enjoyed it. In mid-September, four months after ending the string of walks, my left leg quit working and I fell at home and couldn’t get up. Briefly, I  had a subdural hematoma probably resulting from a fall. After surgery to drain blood off of the brain and a couple of months of physical therapy I’m back home (I live alone) and working half days. Walking? I walk a lot better than I did before the surgery, but still have balance problems. I walk independently, with a walker, or with a cane. I’m happy with that. I currently walk half an hour a day inside my home (not as boring as you would think) and, believe it or not, it’s pretty good exercise. I plan to take up back yard walking when the weather permits and I’m a little stronger.]

Someone, Schopenhauer I think, said that your happiness depends far more on the amount of exercise you get than on your “philosophy of life.” I agree. Happiness is not a moral issue, and I think it’s about 96 % dependent upon health. Regardless of your bank balance or your religion, if you feel well, life looks pretty good, but if you feel bad, life sucks.

I hereby invite and challenge all Gazette readers to participate in the joy of walking. You don’t have time? Then I challenge you to love yourself enough to demand of life at least 3/4 of an hour of each day to go outdoors and spend time with your best friend–you! You don’t need any special instruction or equipment to start. You’ll figure it out as you go along. I’ll cite no authority to support daily walking other than Dukes: Try it! I challenge you to get out and walk around every day for at least a year to see how it changes your life. It’s not just about exercise. It’s about learning “to endure to be with oneself,” in Nietzsche’s phrase.

Gazette Awards Franks

I took my 5,000th consecutive walk at about the same time Nolan Ryan was getting his 5,000th strikeout. You know what kind of publicity he got and what kind I got. All my press releases were wasted.

A little later, the Denton Record-Chronicle printed a big article honoring as paragons of environmentalism some former grass-clippings baggers who swore off bagging and began participating in the local “Don’t Bag it” campaign designed to save the landfill.  I was again passed over, though in my life I have never bagged or even considered bagging a single blade of grass. The paper’s pages were filled with the smiling faces of happy reformed baggers who had bought new mulcherizing mowers at the local garden stores ( whose ads were, conveniently, on the same pages of the newspaper) in order to not bag their clippings properly. I had ignorantly been not bagging un-mulcherized and often even un-mowed grass. When they get around to having Don’t Mow it, Don’t Edge it, Don’t Fertilize it, Don’t Prune it, and Don’t Water it campaigns, I will already have been not doing all these things for decades, but I’ll probably still get no award. My natural modesty seems to make me invisible.

The big blow came the same year when Time named Ted Turner Man of the Year. I won’t say I expected to win, but it pissed me off none the less when l heard that Time owns over half the stock in Turner’s broadcast network. It’s like the Yankees naming Joe Torre Major League Manager of the Year. So, I reasoned, if Time can choose its own, so, too, can the Pure Water Gazette. Therefore:

The Pure Water Gazette proudly names Gene Franks recipient of its prestigious first-ever Persistent Perambulation award, given in recognition for his walking aimlessly about Denton, Oaxaca, Winfield, KS, McAlester, OK, Mountain View, AR, New Orleans, Long Beach, Las Vegas and many, many other interesting places during every single day for the last many, many years. The following interview was recorded immediately after the awards ceremony. [The following was originally conceived as a self-interview, but self-interviewing is a difficult art, so I later turned the interviewing over to veteran Gazette columnist Tiger Tom.  Tiger Tom is a surly interviewer. Your indulgence is requested.]


A Rare and Exclusive Interview With Gene Franks, conducted by Gazette columnist Tiger Tom 

Tiger Tom: Congratulations on your big award, Gene. How does it feel to finally get the national acclaim you’ve always said you deserve?

Gene: Wonderful! I’m at loss for words. I didn’t even know I was being considered.

Tiger Tom: Of course. But I see you overcame your natural modesty and put a picture of yourself at the top of the article. It doesn’t look much like you, though. Howard Musick was really kind to shrink your feet and give you all those extra teeth. And why did he put that tattoo on your arm? I’ve never seen that..

Gene: He did take certain artistic liberties. The tattoo really says “Born to raise tomatoes,” and it’s on my chest, just over the battleship. But there are really two pictures of me in this issue.

Tiger Tom:  Oh, yeah?.  Where’s the second picture?

Gene: It’s the guy with the big pipe. That’s me a long time ago, when I was a lot older and more serious.

Tiger Tom: I suppose the pipe stands for all the burdensome habits of youth. I hear you had plenty of them. The picture could show you being crushed by a gigantic bottle, or buried under a pile of pork chop bones. Or being choked by a big roach clip.

Gene: I can’t deny any of that. Most young people who  pursue this folly or that think someday they’ll quit. I was lucky enough to do it.

Tiger Tom: Unless I miss my guess, now you’re going to tell us how you did it. 

Gene: I’m glad you asked, although I don’t have a neat step-by-step plan. The main thing about changing  is genuinely wanting to change. That comes first. When you are ready to change, opportunities to do so will present themselves. There is a saying among yoga people: “When the student is ready, the guru will appear.” When you are genuinely ready to change or to achieve something, the means, the guru, appears in the form of a person, a book, an event, or maybe just an idea that pops into your head. When you desire something genuinely, you begin to think of yourself as a changed, a different person, and this sets in motion events at deep levels we are not consciously aware of. Our separateness is an illusion. We are all hooked into a complex and marvelous network of information.

Jesus said that as a person “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Changing yourself is mainly a question of  imagination, not will power. Whether you think of “thinking in your heart” as praying, visualizing, using self-hypnosis, or practicing Silva Mind Control, or just walking around imagining that you are different,  the method is the same. Praying or visualizing is like leaving magazine articles about your new plan on the Old Chief’s desk so he’ll read them and think the whole idea is his. 

One word of caution: When the Old Chief (whoever or whatever you conceive him or Him to be) gets into the act, his methods are often heavy-handed. You usually have a chance to do things the easy way with some conscious effort, but if you don’t take advantage of it, the Old Chief might arrange to have both your arms broken to help you quit cigarettes. 

Tiger Tom: That’s all pretty vague. Why don’t you give an example. Tell us how you stopped eating meat. I’m sure you’re dying to. Not that I haven’t heard this story before.

Gene: This won’t be what you expect, since I wasn’t “thinking in my heart” of becoming a vegetarian at all. In fact, I really didn’t even know what a vegetarian was. But in my late 20s I was very unhappy and very unhealthy. I deeply wanted and needed to change some things. I’d caught on that, among other things, the good old standard diet pushed by the establishment was doing me in. I wanted to eat better, but I was totally stupid about nutrition. I read the books of Adele Davis that were popular at the time. She preached the need for supplements by the handful and vast amounts of animal protein. Adele reported all the animal studies (not always honestly, I learned later) that show that rats have heart attacks and their balls fall off if they are deprived of hog liver. Stuff like that. I did not want my balls to fall off, so I increased my already-high intake of hog liver and started eating even boiled duck eggs, which are gross and chewy, like eating a rubber ball.

Tiger Tom: Please just get to the point.

Gene: The point is that all the while I was trying to be a good disciple of Adele Davis and learning to wash my raw liver down with ox blood, I kept having disturbing thoughts. Like, I heard a radio report about the USDA allowable for rodent hairs and insect parts in processed meats. The typical bureaucratic solution: if you can’t keep the rats and roaches out, set up a “minimum allowable” that makes it OK. As if 10 parts per million rat hair in sausage isn’t gross, but 11 parts is. My mind’s eye saw pictures of big cauldrons of bubbling bologna batter stirred by greasy, sweaty workers who from time to time cleared their throats and spat, Now and then a roach or a rat plopped in and became part of the slurry. 

Tiger Tom: Wouldn’t you rather talk about walking? 

Gene:  I’m just getting warmed up. The punch line is at hand. One night I was eating a hot dog and watching Perry Mason with the rest of America when an over whelming flash of enlightenment flooded through my mind. I realized, down deep where it really matters, that the rubbery mass in my mouth was the dead flesh of a creature just like me. I was eating a corpse! They had embalmed it and ground it up and colored it and changed its name to disguise the fact that it was putrefying flesh, but the fact was that I was eating a rotting cadaver. The veins and gristle and pus and blood were there: they were just ground up so I wouldn’t recognize them. I coughed out the bite in my mouth, and that was my last hot dog. Like it or not, I was a vegetarian. 

Tiger Tom: I hear you’d been smoking weed before you ate the dog. You always leave that part out. I suppose this story has a moral.

Gene:  Of course. I sincerely wanted to improve my health. The guru appeared in an unexpected way. I was trying to change but was going in the wrong direction. You have to try–to put some demands on the system. Going in the wrong direction is better than doing nothing. 

Tiger Tom: Tell us how you quit smoking. Be brief! 

 Gene: Smoking was easy. I had been smoking 20 years and really wanted to quit. For a few weeks I visualized myself as a happy, healthy non-smoker. Then I quit smoking and took up snuff (to break the puffing habit but keep the nicotine). Snuff was such a disgusting habit that I soon quit it very easily. The whole thing was easy. I’m surprised more people don’t do it that way. 

Tiger Tom: Not exactly the classical method. And it sounds like there’s no money to be made from it.  This interview is supposed to be about walking. You’re so big on quotes, I suppose you’ve got a big tub full of quotes somewhere about walking.

Gene: Of course. Endorsements from everyone from Adam to Zenobia. But I’ll go right to the top and stick with Jesus, who has already appeared a couple of times in this issue. Jesus’ whole life is an endorsement of walking. He walked everywhere, except for an occasional donkey ride. And the Bible nowhere mentions him jogging, doing pushups, going to the gym or exercising in any other way. He was always walking around the countryside, and even when he wanted to go out on the lake where his disciples were, did he swim? No, he walked. That proves that walking is the world’s greatest exercise.

Tiger Tom: I hope lightening doesn’t strike us! I’ve heard some of your weird ideas about walking. There’s room for just one.

Gene: Nothing weird about this. It’s just common sense. Much of our alienation from the Earth, our great loneliness, results from not walking enough and from wearing thick-soled shoes. The sensitive bottoms of our feet are our link with the Earth–the place where we make intimate contact with the Mother. Life is a learning process. Earth, the Mother, teaches and nurtures us through the bottoms of our feet, where our most direct contact with her takes place. Reflexology has recorded correspondence between specific sites on the bottoms of the feet and all parts of the body. Walking barefoot provides us a loving, whole-body massage by the Earth. That we seldom walk, and when we do it is with ever-thicker shoe-soles that insulate us from intimacy with the Earth, explains why we are so abysmally stupid about certain things, though we’re so very clever about others. There’s no way to learn in a classroom the rich, sensual lesson that the Earth teaches us when we walk on damp soil and feel mud ooze between our toes.

Tiger Tom: I hope you don’t expect them to put mudwalking in the school curriculum! You’ve blabbed on so long that now we don’t have room for a lot of really good stuff, including Shirley Wilkes-Johnson’s recipes, that were supposed to go in this issue.

Gene: Shirley will understand. As for recipes, here’s a quick one of my own, from my “Simple Recipes” collection. This is also a walking recipe.  It’s a recipe for pecans.


While walking in the South, especially at night when you can’t be seen, stuff pockets with pecans picked up from people’s yards. As you walk, place two pecans in palm of hand, squeeze until one cracks. Eat parts that taste good and throw parts that don’t in other people’s yards. Repeat until one pecan remains. Do not crack remaining pecan with teeth, but hold as “food for thought” and meditate while walking on the theme: “If the universe were perfect, would pecans exist only in pairs? “

Tiger Tom: Oh, brother.


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