Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

City Nights

    Urban walking can be subversive or not subversive depending on where and when you walk. I can understand how it would be seen as subversive if you were walking in Manhattan during lunch time or something. The urban stroll through can be subversive when the city is at its busiest. However, many smaller cities and even some larger ones have little to no people out during the night on a weekday. Before I moved to Tennessee I lived in a city called Bellingham, which is roughly the size Murfreesboro. I loved to go for long walks during the nights and never needed to subvert myself to avoid people or crowds. Often I would walk for hours and never even see another person. On these midnight strolls I couldn’t go into businesses and look around or even buy food. They are very serene walks. Much more serene than that of a nature hike because on a nature hike there are always eyes on you. Animals watching you and scurrying around, even more so at night. On a midnight city walk you see and hear very little life and you often feel very alone.

    On the contrast, a nature hike, and especially on a “hike” and not a nature walk, there is nothing subversive about it. A hike is a domination of nature. It’s where you move aggressively through the landscape. Pushing through it and trampling it as you move to a destination. In my mind I envision the South American Amazon, an explorer slashing with a machete as he traverses the thick jungle. 

    A nature walk however, could be much simpler. I go on walks in a forest at the Stones River Nation Battlefield on a path is a very simple stroll, not a hike. Alternatively, if you strolled slowly moving around trees and other obstacles in the woods off the trail would you not be subversively traveling?


  1. I understand better now what Gros was saying about "Subversion is not a matter of opposing but of evading, deflecting, altering with exaggeration, accepting blandly and moving rapidly on. The flaneur subverts solitude,speed, dubious business politics and consumerism." When I went to Poitiers, France, I did not speak French and did not know where I was going, but as I strolled around the city, I felt like I was an explorer and while I saw others walking on the street, I knew they could not verbally communicate with me nor I with them, so in a sense I was more an observer and I could stroll without feeling the need to be somewhere unlike many of them. Could I experience that in another urban environment. I think I could as long as it was in a city I was not familiar with.

  2. In March I visited Portland, Oregon, taking long walks and a long bikeride there. It's an interesting experience, being a visitor amidst strangers in an unfamiliar locale, but nothing about it felt "subversive" in the oppositional or adversarial sense. An inveterately reflective person probably is hyper-self aware in an uncustomary environment, but isn't it equally possible (and more gratifying) to lose oneself temporarily in a good way, by immersing and reveling in the novelty of a "new" place? Seems like Gros is under sway of his Cartesian legacy, always more aware of the "cogito" than the "sum".

  3. Have you read Dickens' accounts of his night walks in London? I think they were the key to his imagination and productivity.

    1. http://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/03/dickenss-dark-side-walking-at-night-helped-ease-his-conscience-at-killing-off-characters/

      "The apotheosis of night-walking, though, is Charles Dickens. He gets three chapters and could have had more. Dickens himself confessed a tendency ‘to lurk and lounge; to be at street-corners without intelligible reason’; but he was also notorious for his blister-inducing four-mile-an-hour pace. By night, he was both ‘genial roisterer’ and anxious moral guardian — documenting the experiences of the 70,000 homeless people estimated to have been sleeping rough in London in 1859. And Dickens’s dark side is somehow seen more clearly through the nocturnal lens. The character of Little Nell, Beaumont reveals, was originally conceived as a prostitute — the 12-year-old sort that solicited Dostoevsky, to his horror, in the Haymarket at night. Dickens also used nightwalking to manage his conscience and ease his angst. After killing off Paul Dombey, he apparently stalked the streets until dawn."

  4. Adventuring through areas that have no clear defined path, are forms of control. Trailblazing if you will. Alone with one's feelings, thoughts, no impending judgment. No external force motivating you, except for the sense of adventure and survival. Off the beaten path. It seems like the night walks are a similar experience. While the roads are paved, and there are signs of previous footprints, in the form of gum, shoe scuffs, or a dropped reciept, you are still undergoing an adventure that the general population doesn't. Night walks in the forest are honestly terrifying for someone unfamiliar with the environment. Night walks in the city, depending on the place, are equally as frightening. Vigilance is always needed. Perhaps Nietzche was a night walker, constantly under "duress", fearful. This is probably a better question for a Psychologist than a philosopher, but we are certainly allowed to imagine. What events or activities can shape and form the mind to create altered mental states. Being immersed in another society certainly has that effect. A principle in psychology is that the mind retains memories of new experiences much more vividly than an experience that is routine. Whether one can create those new experiences through meditative practice is certainly a question to ponder. Perhaps its' the heightened sense of awareness or confusion that causes the brain to need to make sense of it's external environment to protect itself. My travels to Mexico changed my mind and viewpoints on society, I definitely paid more attention to the Spanish words being said around me, and the English words suddenly seemed a little bit more meaningful. Words elicited emotion instead of an ascribed rule of grammar. This was definitely a novel experience. Is this relate-able to anyone?