Yes, wherever you go, there you are. And if you’ve been there often, chances are you don’t even see, truly see, the landscape.
So sometimes you need to take a new route. And at other times you need to take an entirely random route.
What if you had time to wander… where would you go? How would you decide? What might you discover?
Today, I discovered psychogeography. Is this something everyone else knows about? Am I simply new to the party?
Psychogeography, for anyone else who doesn’t know, is the study of how geography affects the emotions and behaviors of people. As far as I can tell in my research that started with a great find in a 2004 Utne Reader article, psychogeography is just the practice of being (you know what I’m going to say) SPACIOUS.
I love this quote (referring to Christina Ray who organized a Psy.Geo.Conflux conference in New York, one subject of the article):
Most of us, she explains, just follow a small set of preprogrammed instructions as we wander through the city: office, day care, grocery store, home. And she’s right. If you track your own path through a typical day, you’ll soon discover that your journey is habitual, that you’re slowly wearing a canyon through the same streets, the same sidewalks, day after day.
Psychogeography encourages us to buck the rut, to follow some new logic that lets us experience our landscape anew, that forces us to truly see what we’d otherwise ignore. “Chance and randomness,” says Ray, “are what’s exciting.”
Psychogeography is the practice of getting lost and knowing that “all who wander are not lost.” It’s the practice of allowing randomness or happenstance to lead you more than control or planning do.
There are groups that practice psychogeographic walking. One approach is algorithmic (“go two blocks, turn left, go three blocks, turn right, repeat”). There are groups that walk following smells or colors or shapes (the shape that a wolf hand puppet would make against a wall, for example). This is scientific stuff, for sure.
But I’m into it. And I think we should do a SPACIOUS improvisational walk. Check out this site on DIY Cartography. It’s positively thrilling. What if a bunch of us were wandering our towns “mapping weird stuff,” as one Ohio Wesleyan summer camp professor led a group in doing.
So give me a shout and let me know what sort of walk you might dream up, and then let’s do a day of weird walks, a meandering, peripatetic stroll of a day, whether we perambulate algorithmically or whether we follow a stray dog around town or whether we visit only streets with R names… so many possibilities.
While you contemplate your suggestions, here’s a musical interlude in honor of how this way of walking and thinking about place are going to change our lives (if ever so imperceptibly). In honor of the life change, let’s cue up The Oinker Sisters from Sesame Street singing “A New Way to Walk.”