The Art of Getting Lost

Rainy Night on Church Street, photo by Ellen M. via fotor.com.

Rainy Night on Church Street.
Photo credit: ellenm1 / Foter.com / CC BY

Walking while texting has become an urban pastime, but in times past, flânerie—that is, the art of strolling while looking up and around at the urban landscape and noticing people, places, activities—was all the rage among men of leisure, literary men, dandy men, and only men, if you believe this Wikipedia piece that seeks to define the flâneur. This figure can also be understood in literary terms as the observant narrator, and, well, this interesting article by Heather Marcelle Crickenberger about the literary flâneur puts him, historically, in masculine terms.

Of course, the art of wandering and observing and discovering is not just a thing that men of privilege can do. It’s a thing that writers do as we move through the world and narrate our experience, and here’s a simple way to begin: Guide to Getting Lost is a pdf with easy directions to create a city adventure, a publication of The Flaneur Society, which wants to help us expand our awareness of the urban landscape.

I discovered the guide after losing myself for hours on the web, randomly following links. If you’ve been online all morning, maybe it’s time to shut your computer down, to go out and wander. Time to turn off your cell phone, pack a notebook and pen, and discover the art of flânerie.

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