Sitting at a desk under artificial lights all day staring at the glowing computer screen, separates us from the natural world. That aspect of grace and connection to the beauty of life, of nature and of our soul. We seek a remedy, a tonic to confirm that yes, we are alive! Saunteringarts exhorts you to step outside, take a walk, let your senses open and engage the body in the simple pleasure of being.
Alexandra Horowitz, in On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation and Maria Popova’s, blogpost in Brainpickings (quoting from Josef Pieper’s Leisure, the Basis of Culture below) offer encouragement to the existentialist, often burdened by a dehumanizing culture of productivity.
“Leisure lives on affirmation. It is not the same as the absence of activity … or even as an inner quiet. It is rather like the stillness in the conversation of lovers, which is fed by their oneness.”
Transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller and others shared their walk with nature in the 19th Century, while a shift to urban perspectives came into vogue with the flaneurs in Paris. A 21st Century example is this visual pun, taken while sauntering Asheville, North Carolina.
The most notable application of flâneur to street photography probably comes from Susan Sontag in her 1977 essay, On Photography. She describes how, since the development of hand-held cameras in the early 20th century, the camera has become the tool of the flâneur
The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world ‘picturesque.’ (pg. 55)
We live in a postmodern era, transitioning slowly from its industrial malaise. One way to let go of the ennui: take a walk and listen, look, feel and touch the beautiful Earth. Maybe then, we’ll take care of it and of ourselves.