My Interview with Charles Baudelaire and The Modern Flaneur Lifestyle

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Do you consider yourself an observant person? Do you feel that you get the most out of your everyday life?


For most of my existence, the answer was no to both of these questions.


I am in Colorado after my research trip on humanity in Las Vegas (I survived), and am spending my time surrounded by nature and its resplendent beauty. Vegas seems to be returning to its pre-pandemic heyday, and Colorado is exploding with tourism. It is exciting to see people out again, in airports, parks, restaurants and museums. I am even attending my first concert in a few weeks.


What a far cry from a year ago.


When I had a lot of spare time during the pandemic and not much to do, I took several free, online courses from Coursera (www.coursera.org). My favorite was “The Modern and The Postmodern”, a two-part, semester-long course taught by the President of Wesleyan University, Michael Roth. You can find a link to the course here: https://www.coursera.org/learn/modern-postmodern-1/home/welcome

In this excellent philosophy course, I learned about the leading thinkers from the late 1700s until the present. One of those was French poet, bon vivant and trendsetter, Charles Baudelaire.


Charles Baudelaire embodied and made famous the libertine, flaneur* lifestyle in 19th century Paris. You can learn more about Charles Baudelaire here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Baudelaire


* a 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.  Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fl%C3%A2neur

I wonder what Baudelaire would think of our modern world. Similar to my interviews with other deceased dignitaries, (see Interviews with Dead People on the Social Musings by Austin blog here: https://www.socialmusingsbyaustin.com/blog/categories/interviews-with-dead-people), I am using Charles Baudelaire’s actual words in quotations.


Photo taken at the Park West Gallery, Las Vegas


INTERVIEW BEGINS.


SocialMusingsbyAustin: Monsieur Baudelaire, merci for being with me here today on the Social Musings by Austin blog. I can smell that you have already had your fill of your morning brandy and cigarettes....


Baudelaire: “You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.”


SocialMusingsbyAustin: Wow, I am not sure Alcoholics Anonymous would agree with you there.


Baudelaire: It doesn’t have to be alcohol or drugs. “Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.”


SocialMusingsbyAustin: Without imbibing in controlled substances, which you were known to do - in 1851, you wrote a treatise on the effects of wine and hashish - where did you usually find your inspiration?


Baudelaire: “It was, above all, out of my exploration of huge cities, out of the medley of their innumerable interrelations, that this haunting ideal was born.”


SocialMusingsbyAustin: Speaking of cities, you made the flaneur lifestyle popular with your observatory wanderings of the Parisian streets, peering into sidewalk cafes and admiring the scenery. Tell me more about that.


Baudelaire: I think I said it best in the first paragraph of my poem Crowds. “It is not given to every man to take a bath of multitude; enjoying a crowd is an art; and only he can relish a debauch of vitality at the expense of the human species, on whom, in his cradle, a fairy has bestowed a love of masks and masquerading, the hate of home, and the passion for roaming.”



SocialMusingsbyAustin: The pandemic must have been really hard on you then. Since you were unable to walk around much, what did you do during the pandemic?


Baudelaire: Like many, for me it was “an orgy of silence.”


SocialMusingsbyAustin: Tell me more.


Baudelaire: It was as if “the tyranny of the human face has disappeared, and now there will be no one but myself to make me suffer.”


SocialMusingsbyAustin: Yeah, that checks out. I spent a lot of time during the pandemic on virtual arts and culture events to give me solace. Did you happen to see my other interviews on the Social Musings blog, especially the one with Dr. Sigmund Freud on how art can be used as a palliative measure in life: My Interview with Sigmund Freud: Art as a Palliative Measure in These Chaotic Times?


Baudelaire: “Art is an infinitely precious thing, a warming and refreshing drink which reestablishes stomach and spirit in the natural equilibrium of the ideal.”


Photo taken at the Park West Gallery, Las Vegas


SocialMusingsbyAustin: Amen. Since I am working on my second career of becoming a blogger, author and entrepreneur these days, do you have any advice for me and others who might be considering the same path in this YOLO Economy?


Baudelaire: “Which one of us, in his moments of ambition, has not dreamed of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical, without rhythm and without rhyme, supple enough and rugged enough to adapt itself to the lyrical impulses of the soul, the undulations of reverie, the jibes of conscience?”


SocialMusingsbyAustin: I hear that. In fact I definitely saw the undulations of reverie in Las Vegas; however, not so sure about the jibes of conscience...


Baudelaire: Ah yes, I have heard of this Las Vegas place. Sin City, right? Sounds like my kind of place.


SocialMusingsbyAustin: I think Vegas is right up your Rue d’ Rivoli. Chas, can I call you Chas? You can read more about my trip to Las Vegas here: (Instagram and My Mental Health: Part I (socialmusingsbyaustin.com). You should check out Austin, Texas on a weekend too.


Baudelaire: What is this Instagram thing you mentioned? Would I like it?


SocialMusingsbyAustin: You would love it. But for your own mental health, sir, don’t worry about Instagram; you are already an Influencer. Anyway, we are out of time for now. Merci Beaucoup M. Baudelaire!


END INTERVIEW.


Walking around cities as a modern day flâneur these days (not on a Scooter like my younger brethren, but actually using my own two legs, imagine that!), I try to fight the urge to look down at my phone (as so many of us do) and instead try to be as observant as possible. I am astonished at how much more of life I see when I just look around me with wonder.

So as you enjoy your weekend activities, remember to keep your head up and observe all of the beauty around you in your life. You don't need to be in Colorado, Las Vegas or on a beach to enjoy life. Simply surround yourself with the people you love, and the rest will take care of itself.


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