Essayist tells Baylor crowd walking helps him learn to co-exist

  |  Source: Baylor University

Garnette Cadogan and Alan Jacobs, distinguished professor of humanities in the Honors College at Baylor University, discuss co-existence during their conversation on "Walking and Writing in the City." (Photo / Brooke Battersby)

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WACO—Essayist Garnett Cadogan views walking as an act of faith and an opportunity to learn lessons about community and co-existence.

Cadogan, a visiting scholar in the department of urban studies and planning at Massachusetts Intitute of Technology, regularly asks his students, “What does it mean to co-exist?”

Garnette Cadogan, essayist and author of “Walking While Black” and “Due North” (Courtesy Photo)

Cadogan, author of the essays, “Walking While Black” and “Due North,” attempts to answer this question every night as he walks the city streets and interacts with those he encounters.

“Walking is, in many ways, my home,” he told a group of students, faculty and staff during a Feb. 1 lecture at the Baylor University Honors College. “Walking home became my home. It became a place to feel and feel comfortably.”

Cadogan’s lecture, “Walking and Writing in the City,” covered his upbringing, passion for walking and Christian faith.

“Serendipity, a mentor once told me, is a secular way of speaking of grace; it’s unearned favor,” Cadogan wrote in his essay “Walking While Black.” “Seen theologically, then, walking is an act of faith.”

‘A matter of necessity’

Cadogan began walking at a young age in order to escape his rough family life and get around the island of Jamaica.

“I became an obsessive walker as a matter of necessity,” Cadogan wrote in his essay “Due North.”

“Too poor to take taxis when I was growing up in Jamaica, and living in a neighborhood where taxis (and, alas, friends) refused to go at night, I learned to walk wherever and whenever to get home,” he said.

As he got older, however, Cadogan began to shift his thinking about walking as an escape to walking as an opportunity.

“Walking became a way to gather and encounter stories,” he said to the Baylor crowd. “My walking is about encounters, not solitude. It’s partially about the arrival, but the arrival of encounters and encounters with others.”

‘Among neighbors, not strangers’

Cadogan revealed he walks at nighttime, hardly ever sleeping for more than four hours. He jokingly explained that his roommates in Cambridge, Mass., believe he is a spy, simply because he is never home. Cadogan smiled and said when he wasn’t working, he was walking, and his favorite walks happen around midnight.

“There is a solidarity to the night,” Cadogan said. “There is camaraderie during these hours between the police officers and the homeless, the bartenders and the patrons, waiters and the public transportation staff. People are more willing to tell you about their lives at night because of this bond. We are walking among neighbors, not strangers.”

As he recalled his own life story and the stories of individuals whom he has encountered on his walks, Cadogan explained the concept of “arrival.”

“Walking isn’t about mastering, it’s about mystery,” Cadogan said. “No matter how much I walk, there will still be mystery. The streets are bursting with mystery.

“Arrival never actually happens. There are too many things to keep my arrival at bay—my race, ignorance about other parts of the world, who I am—I can never fully arrive. But that is the hope in walking, hoping for arrival.”

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