Filed under: departure lounge | Tags: “The Practice of Everyday Life”, city, Michel de Certeau, walking
I go on a six mile walk most weekends this spring. Often from an urge to get out of the house and enjoy the weather and maybe do some thinking or even meditating. Also to explore new streets. I’ve stitched neighborhoods together that I had previously known separately – oh, here is how the park fronts this neighborhood which is so close to the river, etc.
Sometimes I walk to not be lonely, or to be good company to myself in the bustle of the streets I pass through. Sometimes it can feel like I am looking for some place or someone.
Here is a passage that describes how walking means being placeless: I am neither where I started nor where I am going. And it describes the city as a sort of crucible of placelessness. The writer sees the hope of interconnection in the city, but only a temporary, fleeting sort: the city is in the end a backdrop for our wandering and searching.
Here is de Certeau:
“To walk is to lack a place. It is the indefinite process of being absent and in search of an appropriation. The moving about that the city multiplies and concentrates makes the city itself an immense social experience of lacking a place — an experience that is, to be sure, broken up into countless tiny deportations (displacements and walks), compensated for by the relationships and intersections of these exoduses that intertwine and create an urban fabric, and placed under the sign of what ought to be, ultimately, the place but is only a name, the City…a universe of rented spaces haunted by a nowhere or by dreamed-of places.”
― Michel de Certeau “The Practice of Everyday Life”
Being told you can be President some day – as American boys and girls are – can make you more ambitious and hopeful in the beginning; more morose when you realize it’s not happening; and prone to illusion throughout.
Being told you will never be PM – as happens in the UK – will acquaint you with the truth very early in life and may set you on the course of pulling every punch.
Ricky Gervais on some differences between Brits and Americans.
It’s often dangerous to generalize, but under threat, I would say that Americans are more “down the line.” They don’t hide their hopes and fears. They applaud ambition and openly reward success. Brits are more comfortable with life’s losers. We embrace the underdog until it’s no longer the underdog. We like to bring authority down a peg or two. Just for the hell of it. Americans say, “have a nice day” whether they mean it or not. Brits are terrified to say this. We tell ourselves it’s because we don’t want to sound insincere but I think it might be for the opposite reason. We don’t want to celebrate anything too soon. Failure and disappointment lurk around every corner. This is due to our upbringing. Americans are brought up to believe they can be the next president of the United States. Brits are told, “It won’t happen for you.”
The Difference Between American and British Humour, Ricky Gervais, Time, Nov. 09, 2011