This sort of mind-bending awe doesn’t require us to travel off to distant lands or buy a ticket to a local symphony; rather, it requires us to open ourselves up to the wonders of the world in a different way, and to harness the power of our imaginations to evoke moments of awe within us.*
The flâneur instead takes joy in his own anonymity. Only when you pass by unobserved along the streets of Paris can you enjoy complete freedom and breathe the essence of the possible in the air.**
Paris is where flânering was honed developed, but wherever we are, we can engage in it or in its sibling wandering, this to rediscover our world in a new unfamiliarity.
Not seeking to be observed but to observe, the flâneur and flâneuse are seeking to move from the self into the everything, which is also the fullness of self, or the true self.
Martha Beck may be speaking of Danté’s experience as he enters Paradise, but she could easily be speaking of those engaging in flânerie, which can be a journey from the ego into the eco:
First, he no longer feels any separation from anyone or anything. … Second, his personal will (Buddhists might call it his “ego”) begins to dissolve and diminishes the further he goes into paradise.^
What is happening here?
Rainer Maria Rilke says it well when he confesses what learning to see makes possible for him. It is seeing everyone and everything will wide-open eyes, for which we need to put away the old ways of seeing and, with effort, force ourselves to see anew:
I am learning to see. I don’t know why it is, but everything penetrates more deeply into me and does not stop at the place where until ow it always used to finish. I have an inner self of which I was ignorant. Everything goes thither now. What happens there I do not know.^^
This is a journey that brings about deep change in us as we ponder the inner self:
[Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson] found that persistent self-contemplation and inquiry turns a temporary brainstate into a permanent, structural trait.^
*From Jonah Paquette’s newsletter The Wise Brain Bulletin: Mind-bending Awe;
**From Federico Castigliano’s Flâneur;
^From Martha Beck’s The Way of Integrity;
^^Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted in David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.