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On going for a 'jalk'

Every so often, when the feeling takes me that I am becoming assimilated, through some process of osmosis, to the chair on which I spend most of my time, I go for a jalk. A jalk is neither a jog nor a walk, but somewhere in between: it is a jog, but when you get tired you walk.

This may appear to be an insufferably lazy way to take exercise. Jogging should be strenuous, I hear the clamour. It should leave you feeling as if, on your first day of karate training, you have been challenged by Bruce Lee. But I am concerned with the being, not the appearance of things, and going for a jalk suits me fine. The purpose is also enjoyment.

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Indeed, so small is my concern to appear fit and hale in the eyes of my peers that I remember once being seriously embarrassed to run into a friend while out jogging. Her quizzically raised eyebrows smashed, in a microsecond, the carefully cultivated image of closeted, fin de sieclem languor on which I had been working for so long. My rational instincts had told me that, while a facade of ennuim might be all right, it should be no more than a facade: there should be a sound, underlying structure of fresh air and exercise, albeit taken in secret. But my intincts had betrayed me.

Now, of course, I have completely developed beyond the level of wishing to build myself up in the eyes of others, whether for good or ill. Egotism has finally departed from my consciousness: I am no longer concerned with facades. In fact, I would venture to suggest that I am one of the most humble people around . . . .

Well, anyway. Jalking is really a way of life, rather than an isolated activity. It involves a wholly unique approach to phenomena.

For a start, you are not jalking anywhere:m you are just jalking. You are not concerned to go for an hour's jalk, or a two- mile jalk, or anything like that. Jalking is not proving anything to anyone: there is no shame involved in taking a bus ride home if, having gone from A to B, the jalk back to A appears less than enticing. In fact, a jalker, if he is doing it properly, sees himself to be, in a strange way, the still centre of the turning, or rather passing, world. He is not really moving anywhere: it is the world that moves past him.

But what is jalking "properly"? The answer to this, if we knew it well, would revolutionize our world. It is a mental attitude: it is being, not becoming. It is not going anywhere: because one is already there.m It is finding the exact balance between the willfulness of speed and the sloth of slowness. To enter into that rhythm is to find the joy of perfect equilibrium, a rest and freedom which even the most comfortable mattress could not provide. Such a rhythm, when found, can be kept up for phenomenally long periods. (I understand our ancestors could keep it up for days; although, of course, for jalkers there is no compulsion to do so.) One does not jalk to become fit; one does not jalk to become an Olympic star: the joy puts the accolades of Moscow or even Los Angeles in the shade. Jalking is quintessentially noncompetitive. One does not even compete against oneself, since competition implies becoming, developing -- and jalking is already there.

One does not jalk in order to work better. It would make as much sense to say one works in order to jalk better. One jalks for the joy of it, that is all , just as the only truly satisfying work is that which is done for its own sake.

All you need is a pair of running shoes and the usual modicum of feet, lungs, and so on. In fact, those who live near beaches and fields can even dispense with the former. But although it is cheap, its worth is really beyond price. To jalk well is to conquer, if only for a time, time itself.