The Art of Taking a Walk.

Art and Anarchy Camille Pissarro.
Art and Anarchy Camille Pissarro.

‘You find infinity in small spaces

And magic in the most unlikely places”

Ben Okri

Living abroad does not only give you an opportunity to reflect about the county you are in but also about the country you are from. It is a manifold experience when you can compare and contrast, observe and explore. One of the experiences a traveller can indulge in is that of flânerie. Indeed, what a pleasure it is “to be away from home and yet feel oneself everywhere at home, to see the world, to be at the centre of the world – and yet to be hidden from the world”. Charles Baudelaire in his work “The Painter of Life and other Essays” not only gives valuable observations about what makes a good traveller but also points out that “few men are gifted with the capacity of seeing”.

The question of course is  “What is truly considered as seeing?”  It is not only looking around but it has to do with experiencing the outside world on many levels. When representatives of different cultures are asked how many senses the human being has, the answer might be surprising as the number of senses increases as we are moving towards the East. In addition to seeing, smelling, touching and hearing those asked add balance and intuition to the list. These aspects sharpen the power of observation, make our senses more acute and help us to experience the world to the fullest. What is important to remember is the fact that our senses should be developed, triggered, nourished in a way so they are active and are ready to accept and digest new information. In this respect travelling not only broadens the mind as it is generally believed  but has a strong impact on our personalities, especially compassion, sympathy and understanding. This is not to say that people who do not travel lack these qualities but from my experience living in your own culture does not challenge these qualities enough and the need for respect, tolerance and power of observation is not as important as when you are abroad.

While living in a different culture there are certain temptations, or to be more precisely hacks such as jumping to conclusions. That’s right! Jumping to conclusions about the culture you are in, in order to make your life more comfortable. Behaving as if you know exactly what’s going on and measuring everything with your own ruler.

The title of this essay is the name of the book by Anke Gleber who argues that Flaneur as portrayed by Walter Benjamin and Charles Baudelaire is a person who can understand deeper cultural context through observation in the age of modernity.  An ability to have a unique view of the world. I think there is a difference between world-view and view of the world when it comes flânerie . It sounds as if world-view is something rigid, something that has been formed and presented to you without your consent or participation while the view of the world is yet to be formed, it is just there in front of you and you have to make what you can or want out of it.

It is not easy to master this balance of being part of the crowd while being remote from, being connected but at the same time having your own path and ideas, having room for these ideas and experiences. But never ask a tightrope walker how he keeps his balance. As it always seems to be the case in the most of unexpected and surprising of situations you learn the most about yourself.


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