Even the simple pleasures of walking have been moralized. The same email instructed me: “You have an obligation to your heart. Take it out for a walk!” This is offensive in at least three ways: 1.) It presumes to tell me how to run my life. 2.) It treats me like a not particularly bright child. 3.) It uses an exclamation point. In “Going Out for a Walk” (And Even Now, 1920), Max Beerbohm calls the Volksmarschers and their propagandists “walkmongers.” Beerbohm’s essay dates from 1918, suggesting that today’s didactic walkers had their precursors in his day’s “physical culturalists.” He writes, almost a century ago:
“People seem to think there is something inherently noble and virtuous in the desire to go for a walk. Any one thus desirous feels that he has a right to impose his will on whomever he sees comfortably settled in an arm-chair, reading.”
Beerbohm died on this date, May 20, in 1956, at age eighty-three.