On my way home, I drive past an old man strolling along the sidewalk. He is carrying a book on this clear, sunny day, reading intently as he walks. Even from my car, I can see that its paperback cover is worn and faded, its pages yellowed. I wonder what is so compelling that he cannot bear to stop reading it. I almost pull over to ask. But I do not want to break his absorption.
That is so sweet, I think. How touching to see such devotion to letters.
Then misgivings creep in. Is it really a good idea to do two things at once? His attention cannot be fully on what he reads, or on his journey. It almost seems that he is trying to trick himself into exercising, trying to do something healthy for his body without being aware of it.
In my rear view mirror, I study him. His walking is stiff and cramped by the need to hold the book. Reading pulls his head down from his neck and misaligns his back. His arms are not free to swing and give him balance and momentum.
Also the pace must be bouncing the words around below his eyes. Reading is difficult when the book is jouncing about.
Perhaps he would enjoy his reading more if he gave it his full attention, letting his body sit quietly in a comfortable chair while his mind devours the words.
Perhaps walking would be better if he were fully present with his body’s motion. Free to see the sunshine on the flowers and the birds flitting and the neighbors who drive by and notice him.
I drive past, uncertain.