Exploring the Ideal Everyday Environment

Exploring the Ideal Everyday Environment

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Exploring the Ideal Everyday Environment

The everyday is most easily viewed as a routine: the occurrences and reoccurrences of an individual’s daily life. A person generally wakes in the mornings, goes to work or attends school, fills their afternoons with errands and activities, returns home, and retires to bed late in the evenings. They become focused on this pattern of the everyday and most everyone in society lives by such a pattern. However, this is not to say that all members of society experience the same everyday, and there is more complexity that lies beyond an everyday routine. Each individual lives in an everyday world unalike any other. No two people live the same everyday life. Therefore, it is deemed important that the everyday is viewed and considered on a large scale. The large scale most often used is the city or the metropolis. A metropolis environment allows for the everyday to exist bountifully, and therefore, allows the everyday to thrive. Differences in everyday life can be compared and contrasted from person to person. The everyday is most often explored in a metropolis setting for these reasons. However, can it be argued then that they everyday only exists within the metropolis? Does an everyday take place outside of the city? It is my belief from my studies that the everyday actually occurs only within the city, and the country or rural areas is where a less complex routine happens. People live routine lives in the country, yet the routine is not massive enough for observation when considering the everyday. Urban areas are the best place for the everyday to occur because it allows for collaboration of routine lives with the shock of the abnormal. Multiple observations of routine lives allow for the everyday to be perceived in order to draw conclusions about the everyday and to classify the everyday. The shocks that occur in the metropolis allow analysts to perceive the effect and to document changes such socks have on a society. Imagine people busily walking down the street and think of each person’s individual everyday life while observing the shocks of the abnormal. In this, the everyday is being experienced with the subjection to the metropolis. The metropolis, as the most ideal location for the everyday to occur, can be

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explored through observing the following: living in the country versus the city, the occurrences in environments between the urban and the rural, people’s relation to each other in the city, and people’s relation to themselves in the city, among similar, lesser factors.

When the everyday is brought into study, the urban or the city is generally the focus of location. The actions and behaviors or crowds are critically observed. Because of the focus on the metropolis, the rural or country is often ignored. Yet it is still important to study these two environments in juxtaposition. If the urban is not contrasted to the rural, important aspects of the everyday may be overlooked. A character that can be used to observe the effects of urban and rural simultaneously is Josef. K’s Uncle Karl from Franz Kafka’s The Trial. Uncle Karl lives in the city earlier in life, but recently moves to the country. He comes to the city for business on occasion and is brought to this city this time after he is alarmingly informed of K.’s position in his trial. Karl’s behavior in the city is noted as, “[he] was always in a hurry, for he was constantly driven by the unfortunate notion that he had to accomplish everything he’d set out to do within the single day to which his visits to the capital were always limited, nor did he dare let slip any opportunity for conversation, business, or pleasure that might happen to arise” (Kafka 88). It is displayed that the urban atmosphere brings Karl into a hasty and almost irrational state. He runs through the busy city streets like a mad man, unwilling to stop at anything in order to fulfill the duties he came to the city for. This behavior may seem normal to the classic city dweller, but to a countryman, it steps completely beyond the borders of the norm. Later, Karl directly compares aspects of the city to the country when he says, “ ‘Here they have all sorts of instruments of power and they will necessarily, automatically use them against you; but in the country they would first have to delegate agents, or try to get at you entirely by letter or by telegraph or by telephone. Naturally that weakens the effect; it doesn’t free you of course, but it gives you some breathing room’” (Kafka 94). Here, he is commenting on the fact that in the city one is more accessible to others and is therefore more easily burdened by the people in surrounding. In the country, however, people are harder to reach, so the desires of others don’t weigh down on one another so heavily. Rurally, one is almost incognito from his surroundings. People exist by themselves and for themselves. Such removal is exactly what removes the everyday from the country though. Constant human interaction is needed in order for everyday development. In the city, ones inability to escape others and to remain rational creates an environment in which the unexpected collides with the routine, which is essentially the everyday. In the city, you cannot plan where you will end up or who you will run into. People living in the country have the capacity to control, perceive, and map out their routine. The everyday comes from the incapability to control and or map out a specific routine. Therefore, the everyday comes out of the metropolis, an environment that lacks both control and internal perception. Routine may exist amicably with the rural, yet the everyday does not.
Another reason why the everyday does not necessarily exist in the country is the pace of the two. In the city, a fast paced, almost rushed life occurs. In the country there is more time for reflection. In studying Simmel, a time comparison can be elaborated by summarizing his thoughts toward the contrast in pace:

To the extent that the metropolis creates these psychological conditions - with every crossing of the street, with the tempo and multiplicity of economic, occupational and social life – it creates in the sensory foundation of metal life . . . a deep contrast with the slower, more habitual, more smoothly flowing rhythm of the sensory-metal phase of small town and rural existence. (Highmore 42)

It can be argued, that the pace of the city creates the everyday. One is thrown forward from a first event to the next in a fast paced environment. The everyday never stops occurring in the city because there is never a pause. There is time for reflection but it coexists with everyday occurrences. One reflects as he is experiencing the everyday. The country does not support this same reflection vs. action situation. In the country, things move slowly, allowing for reflection to occur periodically and interrupting a true everyday experience. In comparing the two, the metropolis obviously provides the most appropriate atmosphere for the everyday to exist. However, there are environments between these two extremes that do foster to some elements of the everyday.

Suburban locations display characteristics of both the everydayness of the urban and the routine of the rural. Here, an environment is created in which people are exposed to the complex workings of a rushed everyday, but can easily remove themselves and return to a state of simple routine. The suburban environment can be explored through its inhabitants. Ben Highmore’s Everyday Life and Cultural Theory points to the housewife as the perfect example of a routine yet still everyday life. In analyzing the housewife, “each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night, she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question: ‘Is this all?’” (qtd. in Highmore 11). Here, the housewife experiences a life of routine, yet she is still reaching to grasp an element of a more substantial everyday. Though she may be doing so silently, it is evident that the everyday is in view of those who dwell in the suburbs. Ultimately, their lack of the everyday comes from access. They are not presented with the resources to experience a true everyday. They are too often confined to their own neighborhoods and homes that they lack exposure to the everyday on a daily basis. Essentially, the suburbs create an environment of minimal everyday experiences, placing it closer to the everyday than rural life, but not as close as urban life.

In the metropolis, people are confronted by other people on a constant basis. Whether it’s in a meeting, picking up lunch, or walking to work, one is always surrounded by others. Because the metropolis creates a contact environment, the everyday is formed through people’s interactions with one another. On the streets of the city, both the unfamiliar and the familiar in terms of people and situations are in confrontation. City dwellers run into familiar faces, yet can be faced with a situation they’ve never been in before. Essentially then, it’s a clash of the norm and the unexpected. In Albert Camus’ The Fall, the protagonist is a character who enjoys interacting with any other person, whether familiar or not. He takes notice of all those around him constantly by commenting, “all these people, eh? out so late despite this rain which hasn’t let up for days” (Camus 12). In the city, you’re never alone. The metropolis is a surrounding in which the accompaniment of others cannot be escaped. The character in the novel thrives off of the interaction. He finds the most pleasure in greeting any passersby on the street and engaging him or her in conversation. At one point, one of the engagements leads to a more uncomfortable situation. He asks a motorcyclist to move his stalled vehicle in order to let traffic through and recalls being informed, “that if I wanted what he called a thorough dusting off he would gladly give it to me” (Camus 52). This is an unfamiliar situation for the outgoing protagonist, yet living in the city, the unfamiliar becomes part of the everyday, as though it is expected. In the country, such an experience would be shocking. However, once exposed regularly to the metropolis such shocking behavior becomes the norm. Such behavior is a form of conflict, which occurs easily in crowds. By witnessing this example of an interaction, observations of crowds begins to occur. On mass observation, Ben Highmore states, “from the start, Mass-Observation can be seen as characterized by tensions and conflicts, both across its various practices and between the perspectives of those involved in the project” (Highmore 77). The crowdedness of the street allows for conflicting behavior. People relate to one another both negatively and positively everyday in the city. With the density of population, there is no escaping such interactions. However, this inability to escape the constant cycle of interactions is what in turn forms the everyday.

The meeting of people on city streets daily can be both desired and unwanted, but it is ultimately unavoidable. The streets are never empty, no matter what time of day or night. Therefore, people are forced to interact, and this forceful interaction helps develop characters. Such interaction can vary from brushing the shoulders of a stranger to planned meetings of acquaintances. The latter is the most influential on character. Personalities make personalities. Relationships between two personalities allow for them to rub off on one another. Therefore, the everyday is affected because perception and interpretation can change. In dealing with strangers, characters are exposed to the unfamiliar as previously discussed. A city street, or the metropolis, is the only place in the world where both an unfamiliar and familiar interaction occurs. All aspects of human interaction can be explored; therefore the metropolis becomes the environment most suitable for the everyday to not only occur but to survive. In addition to this interaction, self interaction and perception occurs most often in the metropolis.

There is a level of uncertainty that occurs when one is confronted by unfamiliar faces. This uncertainty causes the beholder to examine those around him and himself. In director Jean-Luc Godard’s film Une Femme est une Femme, he includes silent scenes in which city streets are spanned and its inhabitants are under observation. It is clear that the men and women he films are not actors and are uninformed as to why they are being filmed. By doing this, he catches on film true everyday life. You see hesitancy and unexpectedness in the eyes of those observed. They react to the camera as any passerby would to an unfamiliar face. Some look away, while others look more intently for an explanation. When one is surrounded by unknown situations or unfamiliar faces, he not only questions the story behind the person he is passing, yet he also begins to question himself. He becomes uncertain of not only of his surroundings, but also of himself. When examining people’s self uncertainty, their actions explain their relationship to the city streets and its inhabitants. People find the need to occupy themselves when they are surrounded by unfamiliar faces. They pick up newspapers, watch the shuffling of their own feet, or sip on brewed lattés. Rarely do people in crowds sit unoccupied, open to raw exposition. Their actions hide their insecurity and make them feel more normal and comfortable in the environment in which they dwell (their everyday). A level of reflection occurs on the busy streets of any metropolitan city because one realizes they are surrounded by their own doubt.

In the busy city, one still has the ability to reflect and talk to himself through exploring his self relation. The secrecy of characteristics that lies within a person also impacts their everyday. Conscience decisions are made as words are spoken within the mind. Though it seems as though such self reflection would have difficulty occurring within the metropolis, it can be displayed that the metropolis is where such reflection occurs most often. As a pedestrian walks down a busy sidewalk, it is rare that he will engage in a conversation with a fellow pedestrian due to the fact that he will not likely run into anyone he knows. Therefore, such a pedestrian is left speaking to himself. He ponders on the activities of his own day, while observing his surrounding and taking everything into reflection. The relationship between the individual and his surrounding in relation to humans is explored by Charles Baudelaire in his essay “Crowds,” an excerpt from Paris Spleen. Baudelaire comments that, “the man who is unable to people his solitude is equally unable to be alone in a bustling crowd” (Baudelaire 20). It is illustrated that there is a distinct relationship between solitude and the crowded atmosphere of the metropolis. The same self reflection occurs while in a crowd as in isolation.

In relation to the everyday, this self reflection relates back to mass observation. Mass observation can be defined as “‘the observation by everyone of everyone, including themselves” (Highmore 83). If generalizations are going to be made about a population’s everyday tendencies, then subjective ness and bias must be removed. One must be willing to examine their life in relation to an everyday in order to study and generalize the everyday as a theory. What is perceived by the self examination can often be compared and contrasted to others. By taking into consideration these comparisons, the everyday begins to form in definition. What each individual does in an everyday setting is very similar, somewhat similar, or drastically different to the next individual. Therefore, bringing these varied everyday lives together forms a generalized everyday that can be used to define a population. However, such comparison can only occur with individuals subjected to a similar environment. If they live in different environments, their results on reflection are immediately affected. Therefore, the metropolis can be considered the best environment to examine the everyday because it allows for the greatest numbers in individuals to be compared.

In addition to these broad factors that contribute to the everyday, there are other elements that can be examined to prove that the everyday exists most successfully within the metropolis. For example, where one directs his path, where he walks or travels to, creates the happenings of the everyday. In the country such a path can be predicted due to lack of options. It is not often that the course of travel would change from the day before. Yet in the city, there are different paths that lead to the same destination. Where one travels cannot be predicted from the previous day’s path of direction. Because of this, city dwellers experience an everyday in which they are confronted by new surrounding, sometimes unfamiliar. Spontaneity of destination occurs with Tropmann, the protagonist of Blue of Noon. One evening he describes a scene in which, “after a long walk, I ended up at the Café de Flore among the sidewalk tables. I sat down with people I hardly knew. I had the feeling I was intruding, but I didn’t leave” (Bataille 34). Tropmann himself wasn’t expecting to end up at this café, and the people he sat with certainly weren’t expecting his company. A spontaneous situation such as sitting at a random table is one in which the everyday thrives. It’s somewhat out of the ordinary, but not so much as to be considered completely abnormal. If the everyday is not checked by such impulsiveness, it becomes routine. That is why the rural is routine, not everyday. Discovering new locations and meeting new people keeps the everyday alive.

Another simple effect of the city on the everyday is the loss of time. Though it gets dark the city never shuts down. It is continually open for the everyday to be experienced in. A vastness of time is created, which allows for a greater range of activity to be observed and analyzed. Again from Blue of Noon, this effect is demonstrated when, “it was barely four o’clock. Seated at a sidewalk café, [Tropmann] leafed through the magazines without seeing them.” Tropmann often finds himself out at all hours of the night. His everyday occurs more after the sun has gone down than in the actual day itself. Tropmann, like many city dwellers, can be observed every hour of the day. In essence, observations can be taken from every hour of the day to create a complete everyday. In observing those who live in a rural environment, exposure to a constant everyday is rare. Their routine can only be observed in daylight. Their small stores close and they retire to the comfort of their own homes and out of the eyes of the observer. Therefore, they not only don’t live an everyday life because of routine, but also because of lack of observation. The everyday must occur wherever and whenever. It doesn’t stop so neither may those experiencing it.

The architectural environment of the metropolis may also be considered in observing the everyday. The city is a massive environment created by steel, concrete and glass. In a sense, the city is a cold environment, and in addition a modern environment. On the metropolis, “technology and industry-ostensibly the mortal enemies of art and of natural beauty-had here, in the glass-and-iron architecture of a functional building that was dismantled with the exhibition, created a monument both fugitive and functional, and therefore of a specifically modern beauty” (Muller 37). Because the city is so industrialized, focus can be drawn toward its inhabitants. In addition, its modernity allows for the most recent examination of its inhabitant’s and their everyday lives. Compared to a rural environment, distraction occurs because people are drawn to the natural beauty of the environment over the people themselves. The rural also dwells in tradition, pulling away from an effective, up to date, examination. People feel comfortable in the country. In the city, they become raw and exposed. There is no safety net and therefore no one living in the city has the ability to disguise their everyday. The most accurate observation occurs when all accounts are exposed, and the cold, modern environment of the metropolis allows for this.

Another factor that the metropolis allows for in accordance to the everyday is diversity. Everyone is surrounded by someone dissimilar to themselves. Therefore, the everyday cannot be based in tradition. It is a new experience with new faces unrecognizable to self reflection. People reflect on who they are because of, “the maintenance of a sense of urban identity in the face of immigration, industrialization, and national homogenization required the invention of new forms of civic self-definition” (Jelavich 96). In the country, inhabitants meet and engage with those just like themselves. Yet in the metropolis, city dwellers come face to face with those of different race, ethnicity, religion, et cetera. As a result, self perspective changes. One can only look deeps inside themselves to look at their own everyday. They can’t turn to others because city dwellers are too different from one another. In addition and more obviously, a more diverse population is subject to observation. A variety of the everyday can be explored by observing the everyday of different cultures. The metropolis allows for different cultures to exist within a single environment. When more that one culture can exist, more that one everyday can be observed and also compared and contrasted. Diversity is a key factor when observing the everyday

As demonstrated, it can be concluded that the metropolis is the most ideal environment for the everyday to survive. The country is simply not suitable for everyday existence. It does not have the capabilities to support the multiple factors that create the everyday. From previous discussion, it has been demonstrated that a rural environment fosters to the needs of routine and tradition. Yet the everyday is too demanding in resources to survive in such a simple environment. Further explanation also illustrated that glimpses of the everyday may occur within a suburban environment, however, the existence still falls short of a full scale everyday. Therefore, the metropolis becomes the sole most important environment for the everyday to occur and survive. Busy city streets foster to grand scale elements as well as smaller factors that create an everyday experience. Among the grand scale elements are people’s interaction with one another in the metropolis and the reflection of the individual that can occur in the city. The smaller factors explored consist of spontaneity of destination, occurrences throughout a twenty four hour day, the physicality of a metropolitan environment, and the diversity that breaks tradition. All of these elements, both grand and small create a true everyday. And the metropolis is the only environment in the world in which all of these elements can occur harmoniously.

Works Cited

Bataille, Georges. Blue of Noon. Trans. Harry Mathews. New York: Marion Boyars,

Baudelaire, Charles. Paris Spleen. Trans. Louise Varese. New York: New Directions
Books, 1947.

Camus, Albert. The Fall. Trans. Justin O’Brien. New York: Vintage International, 1956.

Highmore, Ben. Everyday Life and Cultural Theory. London: Routledge, 2002.

Haxthausen, Charles, and Heidrun Suhr, ed. Berlin Culture and Metropolis. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota, 1990.

Kafka, Franz. The Trial. Trans. Breon Mitchell. New York: Schocken Books Inc, 1998.

Une Femme est une Femme. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. 1961.
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