Are we ever truly alone? James V. Schall asks this question in his essay, The Metaphysics of Walking. Theologians and social scientists have wrestled with the question of an over-busy society for longer than a man can imagine. Although our contemporary Western culture overflows with activity, man has always found things to occupy his time. The struggle for survival alone can make one’s occupation overwhelming in trying to provide the basics of life. But as the modern society in the West has continued to grow, so has the demands on our time. The twentieth century saw a radical shift in the modern age away from times of contemplation to a fast-paced information saturated culture. In a time of history when information and answers are at the click of a keyboard, it would appear that more leisure time would be easily accessible. But with all modern conveniences it seems like the importance of leisure in the priority of the day has become less and less a priority.
A new kind of slavery has entered Western work environments in that the cubicle has replaced the cage. Laborers remain at the desk for endless hours with minimal movement or exercise. Even though many large corporations provide exercise rooms, the responsibilities and expectations of the workday rarely allow for the use of these facilities. The office worker will find it easier not to move the body to strengthen the mind. Reports on Google’s innovative work culture is the envy of most American office workers. If what is seen and reported is true at Google, then it is not surprising that the creativity that comes from there is so high.
Social interaction is important for the nourishing of ideas. The weekly Google hangouts in the Great Books Honors College at Faulkner University model the importance of this interaction. The encouragement and motivation in these discussions provide ideas that could have never been contemplated alone. But for these discussions to be productive participants must find time to consider before the meeting so that ideas can take shape. However, with many family and work responsibilities one finds it difficult to carve out the significant alone time necessary for great thinking.
Sitting at a desk does allow for the focus of reading the works and taking notes. But most will often find that if the mind becomes stale and the eyes and body tired, a unique thing to do is to get up, go outside, and go for a walk. Something as simple as changing scenery provides a new fuel for the mind. The combination of physical movement with contemplation is always the best formula for philosophy. If then this is an important priority, a schedule must shift for the philosopher and anyone serious about great thoughts.
If the problem of obtaining leisure is that busy-ness gets in the way, the easy response would be to find simply less to do. For this to occur a mere word must become part of one’s vocabulary. This word is no. This is not to say to reject all responsibility, but rather to prioritize requirements on time. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus is reported as prioritizing his time amongst the huge demand for his ministry. It is recorded that many people gathered often simply to catch a glimpse of the Master. Matthew 4:18 records a time where Jesus was walking. On this stroll by the Sea of Galilee, he calls his first disciples. Matthew 4:23 indicates that while teaching in synagogues and proclaiming the gospel, Jesus’ fame spread throughout the region. The gospel of Luke records, “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”
It is important to acknowledge when walking in times of solitude one is never truly in isolation. When the priority of discovery takes precedence over the busy-ness of drudgery, one’s mind is never fully alone. The irony is that when one is alone on a walk many more faults and realities occupy the intellect. It seems that to be most productive one must find times that seem the least productive. Perception is not always reality, so when one is seen walking alone, he or she is never truly alone. Writing on Cicero, Schall said that, “he was never less idle than when he was by himself.”
The revelation of a walk comes in that one realizes the importance of just being. With no other demands on the time and intellect a much grander, more accurate, perception of reality occurs. Schall writes,
“Metaphysics is the science of being qua being, of the first things and their causes. We are astonished that something, including ourselves, stands outside of nothingness. Even to meditate on nothing, we must begin with something not ourselves.”
Perhaps this is the value of a walk. Physically moving from one space to another physically shows man’s place in the world. The reality is simply not what we make it be. Reality is much bigger than ourselves and to understand that, we must experience the greater reality by taking our self outside of ourselves and interacting with that outside.
Mars Hill audio tackles this same concept in the discussion of the decline of reading among Western culture. Most notably among young adults. Learning for a small child seems to be an exciting time. Their minds are shaped by imagination and fantasy and are eager for stories. But as that child grows and develops into adolescence, impending adulthood looms over them. Struggles with identity replace the creative imagination of childhood as changes come physically and mentally for the adolescent.
It is easy for someone who is no longer an adolescent to proclaim solutions to this problem of declining reading among our teenagers. But is it not the responsibility of those adults to shape and guide these young adults as they become mature? Although there are significant demands on the intellect and mind of teenagers, it is the parents who determine what is allowed in the home. Multitasking for the millennial generation is normal but not necessarily beneficial. It is the ease of multitasking that distracts one from the importance of solitude. Physical walking outside of urban areas, or even in a city park, is important even for the adolescent. The structures of the academic day for a young person must include times of walking in silence. No matter how difficult it is for the teenager, these young people do follow a schedule structured by others.
There is a problem. It’s called busy-ness. With all the technological conveniences of our day, it seems that we are never settled. What is the answer? Personal responsibility and acknowledgment that priorities are missing amongst the multitasking must occur. Whether it be the individual taking responsibility him or herself, or academic administration reshaping the schedule of the school calendar, priorities must shift away from busy-ness to leisure. Open spaces are abundant where people may go and just experience the world outside of themselves. However, it is far too common that the spaces are not discovered unless a crisis occurs forcing one to seek out these places of solitude. The burden of multitasking and busy-ness in our culture will weigh down so heavily on the shoulders and minds of our citizens, I am afraid a crisis must occur for one to see the damage happening. Perhaps a breakdown in a place of solitude is the only way for some, not all, to realize the truth.
Every analysis begins from things which are finite, or defined, and proceeds in the direction of things which are infinite, or undefined.” 
Reading a difficult work is always worthwhile. Yet in order to benefit from the mental exercise, one must learn to analyze a text to understand and then explain the meaning of the text. The reward of this effort always leads to a greater awareness of that which is unknown and can never be fully known. Exposition of a work of great value brings the student from the defined finite knowledge to the higher undefined infinite mystery. Illumination of what is hidden in great works is the duty of great scholars.
All Great Books have a deeper truth to the text than can be attained through first reading. What is required of the scholar is the mastery of analysis, methods of discernment, that lead one deeper into the meaning of the text and thus higher to the truths of God. Hugh of St. Victor taught in his De Sacramentis,
“All the arts of the natural world subserve our knowledge of God, and the lower wisdom — rightly ordered — leads to the higher.” 
Exposition means to explain. When great ideas are rightly ordered the meaning of the text is revealed through work and deeper meaning leads to a higher truth.
Exposition is the duty of the clergy in that the church, and those outside the ecclesia, are shown what God says. Where the clergy exposit Scripture, academia exposits Great Works of wisdom. Rhabanus Maurus emphasizes the duty of the clergy in broadly understanding Scripture through also understanding language and forms of expression. “A knowledge of these things is proved to be necessary in relation to the interpretation of those passages of Holy Scripture which admit of a twofold sense; an interpretation strictly literal would lead to absurdities.” Absurd reading of Scripture leads one not to the infinite, but to the finite. It is those things infinite that require accurate exposition to fully grasp.
Hugh of St. Victor taught; “Exposition includes three things: the letter, the sense, and the inner meaning.” This three step process is the model to accurate exposition of both Scripture and Great Books. Often the higher meaning of a work is sensed in an initial reading of the text. Knowing how to read the text itself, through language and grammar, is the first form of knowledge that must be mastered well in order to exposit well. The medium of words is a mastered skill that must be understood. A plumber must know pipes and water flow in order to master the art of plumbing. Likewise an expositor must know grammar and language well in order to read and exposit what is read well. In reading the text, one then has an initial sense of the meaning of the text. This may not be an absolute formula of meaning. But the sense is an intuition based on previous skills of grammar and language and a greater sense of feeling about the piece. The inner meaning of a work is best understood by both the science of language and the enigmatic sense, or feel, of a text. Neither aspect alone grants a full exposition of a work. The work of the finite individual through grammar and language studies, combined with the hidden feeling of the infinite source behind the work leads one ultimately to the higher mystery of a great idea within a great work.
In summary, exposition is that effort which leads one to grasp, or merely taste, the higher infinite meaning of a great idea or work by both finite and enigmatic means. Defined absolutes of grammar and language are ordered by inspiration of, or directly by, undefined uncertainties that lead to a higher meaning beyond the lower mind. Exposition is work. But is also led by feeling. A sense of what is read and known ultimately leads to the prize of the inner meaning of a work. This is the purpose of exposition and analysis and the role of the scholar.
 Richard M. Gamble, The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007), p. 261.
 Ibid, p. 255.
 Ibid, p. 251.
 Ibid, p. 260.