The beauty of doing nothing
|Image: All Rights Reserved|
|New York : Penguin|
Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that’s not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment. Americans work harder and longer and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today. But as Lucas Spaghetti pointed out, we seem to like it. Alarming statistics back this observation up, showing that many Americans feel more happy and fulfilled in their offices than they do in their own homes. Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure). Americans don’t really know how to do nothing. This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype—the over-stressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax.
I once asked Lucas Spaghetti if Italians on vacations have that same problem. He laughed so hard he almost drove his motorbike into a fountain.
“Oh, no!” he said. “We are the masters of il bel far niente.”
This is a sweet expression. Il bel far niente means “the beauty of doing nothing.” Now listen—Italians have traditionally always been hard workers, especially those long-suffering laborers known as braccianti (so called because they had nothing but the brute strength of their arms—braccie—to help them survive in this world). But even against that backdrop of hard work, il bel far niente has always been a cherished Italian ideal. The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all your work, the final accomplishment for which you are most highly congratulated. The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement. You don’t necessarily need to be rich in order to experience this, either. There’s another wonderful Italian expression: l’arte d’arrangiarsi—the art of making something out of nothing. The art of turning a few simple ingredients into a feast, or a few gathered friends into a festival. Anyone with a talent for happiness can do this, not only the rich.
Extract from the book Eat, pray, love : one woman’s search for
everything across Italy, India, and Indonesia
By Elizabeth Gilbert
All Rights Reserved.
New York : Penguin, 2007, c2006.
Call Number: English 910.41 GIL -[TRA]
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Do you think that there is beauty in doing nothing (il bel far niente)? Is that something you’d appreciate and desire to achieve?
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