The most striking feature of the recent movie Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring? No, for me it wasn't the excellent acting ... nor the glorious sound track ... nor the powerful special effects ... and certainly it wasn't the ultra-choreographed battle scenes, impressive though they were.

What hit me between the eyes was the mundane experience of distance on foot: the slow, long walks that characters take to move from place to place in Middle Earth. In this, the film is true to Tolkien's books. And in this, the film is brilliant.

People are animals. It's impossible for a human to grasp the true feel of a location --- to understand its essence --- without walking over it. Driving across or flying above can give an intellectual appreciation of a chunk of terrain: "Yep, it looks pretty rugged"; "Nope, that's not natural erosion"; and so forth. Useful for analysis and exploitation.

But to really know a land --- to grok its gestalt --- takes time and tired feet. There's no other way. And via the simple getting-there process it becomes clear that every point in between the start and end of a journey is itself a genuine, important, unique place --- not just something to clamber over or creep around. Every step is sacred; every pace is pregnant with discovery.

TopicPersonalHistory - TopicPhilosophy - 2002-03-09

(correlates: OneWrongStep, YearInIdeas2004, CenturyHence, ...)