A Flaneur’s Lament

Flâneur is an ambivalent figure of urban affluence and modernity, representing the ability to wander detached from society with no other purpose than to be an acute observer of industrialized, contemporary life.

I have a confession. Are you sitting down? Great. I hope you have both eyes open.

I hate to work.

Loathe it.

Abominate it.

Destest it with the heated passion of a thousand and one suns.

There’s a word for people such as myself.. “Flaneur”. Which I describe above in no uncertain detail.

Proving once more the French get me more than I thought I got myself.

See I’m a wanderer by nature. I know in today’s incessant work culture there is simply no time for people like me. Moreover the kind of white hot contempt that should really be reserved for most Southern politicians, employees of Monsanto or tobbaco lobbyists. In my defense? Well. I guess there’s little defense.

That said, my attitude is born of innate idleness and a love of observation and a good old fashioned disdain for corporate modernity. Bottom line? I hate the American standard of working. It is particularly galling. A spiritually stagnant world of artificial smiles, synthetic satisfaction, lame jokes, more backstabbing than Julius Caesar and forced comradery. There’s something so death dealing and unnatural about the whole thing. I don’t know what veil drops with a man when he walks into the office or the warehouse or his theater of choice in and adapts this persona, but as long as Ive been in the workforce, I’ve always found it telling and blatant. I know it sounds haughty, maybe to some minds just egocentric, but I have a difficult time attaching myself to anything that is not in synch with my truths and the song of my soul. So suffice it to say, soul feeding jobs are not really in the market these days, and if they are seldom do they merit a solid, life sustaining paycheck.

Now, it goes without saying, that with such ruthlessly idealistic standards- Ive had plenty of time between jobs.

I’ve worked. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve been a waiter, a busser, a gallerist, a sales clerk, a cashier, a paid apprentice, a booth worker, a bookstore clerk etc. I’ve done my shuck and jive and earned my bread with the best of them. Ive had colleagues that have been friends and foe. Coworkers who were either a face in the crowd gone and seldom recalled or have gone on to become an indelible part of my life- perhaps even reading this blog. I’m sorry to say I’ve even had some to which the exact opposite is true and I make no bones about the fact I would like to see struck repeatedly by lightening. I’ve done swing shift. Morning shift, graveyard shift, which is pure hell. Like many-Ive danced on command when asked to-provided I got my pesos. My pride licking its wounds in a corner afterward.

I’ve made a key observation in this time.

Passion creates you. Work breaks you. The American impetus to work ourselves into the cadaver is particularly unnatural and death dealing, especially as an outsider looking in. Perhaps this is a case of grass is always greener, but during my time in Europe, I noticed that the general attitude towards life and a job is well-more fluid. In Prague for instance, on one of many day time outings, I stopped in at a furniture store. There was a well built middle aged man who I assume was the proprietor who greeted me casually. He wielded a small hammer and was alternating between building a shelf and nursing a rozay- at 9am. I watched him with the intense fixation of a novice apprentice or young student. Something in his air entranced me. The offhand casualty of day drinking whilst at the workplace? Work? Wine? Morning? Dazzling!

In the same trip, I made a stop by the famed Charles River by nightfall. One thing about Europe I find particularly egregious is pay toilets. They’re everywhere- and should nature call-you better have some cash on hand. So, I make my way to the facilities and saw a small woman with blond curls manning the area. “Pay”, she said, with a voice both firm yet gentle. No gatekeeper or sentry before her was more diligent now or ever. I handed over my crowns and did what I came to do. However, all the while, I noticed she moved with humble grace and ease. The Hare Krishna of public johns. She smiled. She hummed an old tune even. Wiping mirrors and polishing johns seats with the contemplative devotion of a groom bushing a prized mare. Because of this energy, the Charles Bridge pay toilet- at night no less- was –calming.

Now, bare in mind, I’m aware to an extent I’m certainly romanticizing these two workers. I’m certain I may have just caught them on an off moment or in good humor. Lord knows how the rest of their nights transpired after I left their places of employment. I get it. However, what I’m driving at is the energy they extolled was so authentically at peace. So natural. There was no forced comradery. No team meeting. No managers office with awkward family pictures , employee files and the everpresent copy of “Who Moved My Cheese”. No pasted on alligator grins masking seething malcontent. No blank stares, nor beady eyed gasping gleams. There was no nametags, no rushing. There was mutual respect for space. Now I’m certain the jobs aren’t always roses. I’m certain there’s days of frustration… I’m certain there’s short or late pay or boorish superiors. However what is it about the American working environment that evokes such inauthenticity, such disdain and such un questioned subservience to absolute petty bureaucracy and nonsense?

A number of factors goes into this kind of speculation. Why do so many feel so content with this? Obviously the need to pay bills, keep a roof and buy groceries is a factor. Yet, why have so many in our modern work culture opted for this monotony? Also please don’t think I’m going to regard any of these other newer corporations that value “individuality” and parade in bright colors and all sorts of zany pageantry. Please. That’s a a smokescreen. When its all said and done- you are a number plain and simple!

Now, I have a theory. Humans by nature have massive potential. We are innately creative and have within us the ability to render magnificent paintings, compose operas, splice atoms and plunge the deepest depths of the oceans. Yet how does that factor into the monotonous soul crushing toil of a nine to five? How can something that depletes one leave you with enough facility to compose your own magnum opus? It seems thought out. Orchestrated. I mean, if humans left to their own creative devices all the time and had a way to sustain themselves solely through those means, our minds left incandescent, unfettered,unhampered by bills and burden- what wonders would be be rendering consistently?

Well, I know the counter arguements are many.

Well if you like your work its not work”

“You can still make time”

“Its all about the attitude”

Decent counter arguments, all of them- and not at all untrue to an extent. Yet why does the vast majority of modern work have to be so draining? I can assure you for every other “influencer” (one of the most grating words to come of of my generation’s vernacular) out there preaching the benefits of “loving what you do” there’s ten thousand dead behind the eyes retail, post office and food service and warehouse employees who who either know the ship long left the harbor or that the buck stops there. By and large, the objective of this musing is to ask why. Why is the work culture, particularly in America, so utterly soul crushing? What is it it about the culture of artificial camaraderie and false bravado and zoom meetings that feels so inauthentic and unbearable?

Perhaps maybe its a yen for something more rich. A longing for something more genuine. Some people simply operate on passion. Some people eschew nametags and would rather wear their hearts firmly on their sleeves. Some, simply can’t go along to get along.. some simply can’t fake it. Try as we may, many of us are are more lone wolves rather then rats dancing to the systematic rhythm of the unfeeling piper-and by the way- the rats all ended up guided to a riverbed and drowning..

Now please, don’t construe this rambling perhaps overly philosophical post as an admission of never working or making any kind of contribution to society. Its more of a dissection of why some of us, just don’t really grasp what its all about. Some things simply need to be said and pondered. I dream of a day when I personally can unsheath myself of my home and modern husk and travel again, rest under a tree, wander the world and fathom words to faithfully conceive and ultimately hand back to the muse that gave them to me. Sadly, you won’t find many posts for that on Indeed.

In the meantime, we can learn. We can watch. We may even have some fun. Whether or not it renders a paycheck is anyone’s guess.

As for myself?

Well- I’m a work in progress.

-even for a flaneur.

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