Ludvig Feilberg: Denmark’s philosopher of walking

Ludvig Feilberg (1849-1912; Wikipedia | Litteratursiden) was an engineer and philosopher. He was known as the fodtursfilosof (philosopher of walking), because he was so skilled at identifying the feelings and atmosphere encountered on a walk.

How known is Feilberg today? He does get a mention in Nu begynder det maniske, where Mikael Bertelsen tries to recreate the feelings invoked on a 500km walk in Spain.

Notes from a kronik by Per Lindsø Larsen on Feilberg, published in Politiken on 13 May 1989 and reproduced in Fodnoter (see Footnotes: rambling in Denmark).

  • Larsen notes the lack of people going for a proper walk, which he defines as a kunstart with its own krav and indre udvikingsforløb, which it can take years to become ganske fortrolig med
  • it’s a matter of much regret that fitness/running has pushed the art of walking out of our culture, not least because it represents a form of mental wellbeing not found in any other sort of physical activity
  • Feilberg’s scattered notes on how to take a proper walk deserve to see the light of day again, before the art of the walk completely dies out
  • the most essential and mandatory requirement is that you walk alone – and in areas and at times of day where you are least likely to meet anybody
  • being close to people results in etablering – even passing another person on an untrodden path in the woods pulls you out of your thoughts, meaning you have to samle, fatte, etablere sig, if even for a short moment, suffocating the inner thoughts essential on a hike (see quote starting “Det var en stille nat” in Information’s Fodnoter review)
  • there is something refreshing about skille sig ud fra den store masse og finde sig en lille afsides plet for sig selv
  • Feilberg was not a misanthrope and enjoyed going for a stroll in the company of his friends – he just knew there were some things best done alone
  • after 6-7km a barrier occurs which needs to be overcome – a certain nausea or physical bryd, which tempts you to stop, go for a coffee or whatever; if you don’t give in to this temptation you will be able to continue for several hours without further need for interruption
  • this barrier has nothing to do with tiredness or physical weakness – it’s just a question of laziness
  • real tiredness is characterised by a leaden feeling in the legs – in this case you may notice a light nervous shaking or trembling, followed by sweating and thirst – if you don’t give in to temptation these feelings will pass and you will be able to continue for many hours without getting tired; you may well notice a change in densification and are already vædret op til nye etager
  • the second barrier is of a quite different nature, mental rather than physical – it occurs gradually, appearing typically soon after the first
  • consists of your thoughts changing from being circular to a ligeløb – ideas from everyday life, small and large, going through your mind in relay? will become more difficult to catch hold of: tankerne flygtigt hæfte sig ved alverdens ligegyldige småting
  • four further phenomena of high mental value in this phase:
    • strakthed – the feeling that the soul is stretching out into the surrounding nature as far as it can and returning refreshed; not a supernatural out of body experience, more the simple result of the end of the closed circle, giving a feeling of ligeløb/equanimity?, openness and fresh air for the soul, likea snail emerging from its house after light rain and stretching up a blade of grass, extending a fine silken thread to be able to breath in the freshness…
    • frihedsfølelse – an almost euphoric feeling which can drive you to dance down a path with a inderlig trang to leap from stump to stump like a street urchin, if discreetly; too much kredsning closes and clenches a person, while ligeløb loosens and opens up; problems which seemed large and insoluble at the beginning of the walk become a mere bagatelle by the end
    • selvfødelsesværdi – expansion of possibilities, new ideas and thoughts come to mind, solutions like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky, with problems seen in a new light – why didn’t I think of that before?
    • hjertevarme – a peculiar feeling which overshadows everything – in winter even the most deserted villa can look so attractive that one is tempted to embrace them, every turn in the path takes on a loving form, every puddle smiles back at you  – a love of nature in its purest and precious form, revealed in all its glory – wake up, this is how life should be!
  • it’s preposterous that we believe we have to attain higher levels of consciousness through the accumulation of knowledge, or descend to lower levels of childish nonsence in order to find livsglæde – just go for a walk!
  • it will happen even if you don’t believe in it, although some experimentation may be required – no two walkers are the same; some prefer woods, some open landscapes; some walk at dawn, some in the twilight; as the man said:

Man skulle aldrig level anderledes end man gør på en fodtur: Levende, men forbigående. Så man til sidst kunne tage hatten af i forbigående: ‘Jeg skal ikke længere have den ære…’

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