I’m going to be wandering into Washington D.C. At the end of some work over here, to see what I can see and imagining the new direction I’m taking and doing some doodling.
I am going to be a flaneur (female: flaneuse).
My friend Charlotte had sent me an article on flanerie and this seemed to be the perfect time to read it – which is an act of flanerie in itself.
The French flaneur first appears in the late sixteenth century. There’s also a Scandinavian flana (a person who wanders) from which the French term may have been derived. This article outlines one way in which flanerie, and particularly the flaneuse is being reimagined:
‘Flanerie, [Pierre-Alexis Dumas] explained, is not about “being idle” or “doing nothing.” It’s an “attitude of curiosity … about exploring everything. It flourished in the nineteenth century, he continued, as a form of resistance to industrialisation and the rationalisation of everyday life … .’*
As I read this, I found myself reimagining flanerie as being about actively taking oneself off the well trodden path, out of the familiar environment, to follow curiosity and to be open to more. But more than this, the aim of this wandering is to expand the capacity of our hearts towards taking a new direction and finding ourselves in new activities and pursuits, particularly wrapped around being a helpmate to those we may meet along the way.
Flanerie is an antidote to the same old same old of life that has the effect of contracting rather than expanding our hearts.