“Grace does not erase personal pain by any means. But it does grant the gift of a higher perspective than any you could attain with the limited skills of reason. In those experiences of insight that are beyond the boundaries of the mortal landscape, it is grace that helps you to defy the gravity of the earth so that you may take an enlightened view of the whole.”
– Caroline Myss, Defy Gravity: Healing Beyond the Bounds of Reason
One thing about being a flâneur is that it creates so much space. When you aren’t pushing to get to a destination, searching for what you feel you’re missing, or trying to follow the motions of the crowd, you create space for seeing something new. Sometimes when we’re wandering as a flâneur, that something new will be something beautiful that we’ve noticed for the first time, other times, that something new could be an idea or a new understanding that surfaces that will change the course of our lives. No matter what it looks like, or how big or small it feels, that something new is always a miracle – it’s grace, connecting us to a higher perspective.
The above scene from Saturday Night Fever is a great example of how being a flâneur can open us to grace. Here, after experiencing significant violence and trauma, John Travolta’s character finds himself on the subway, visibly shocked and distressed as he weaves from one transit line to the next. However, when he stops and sits down, public transit becomes his cocoon. He finds stillness in a gritty subway car as it hurtles through underground Manhattan, and this stillness opens him to grace. He closes his eyes and is able to process many things that have been going on in his life – moments of anger, moments of joy and creativity. And then something shifts, there’s a new lightness, and he’s able to walk out into the dawn towards love.
By allowing the subway to become a momentary refuge, he created just enough space to see past the trauma he’d just lived, giving him a sense of the bigger picture and reminding him what matters most. As a result, he is able to move forward with an open heart.
This scene might be kind of kitschy for some with the old school style montage effects and all of the polyester happening, but it’s such a beautiful illustration of how available grace is to each of us, no matter where we are. After the darkest moments, when the only initial emotions that surface are shock, despair, and devastation, we can find healing and start a new day. Sometimes it’s just a question of letting your surrounding environment envelop you, being still, and creating just enough space to see something new.