Saturday, February 23, 2008

Il Dolce Far Niente

Upon returning from Italy my friend shared an Italian philosophy he'd come to embrace, il dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing.

He went on to explain that his time spent in the Mediterranean has, among other things, changed the way he approaches eating. Apparently on weekdays the Italians give themselves two or more hours for lunch. Cooking together, savoring the meal with one another, lingering with life, in the moment, fueling body and soul. Then, back to work for a few more hours.

In addition, the shops in Italy are not open long hours seven days a week as they are here. Family and friends are valued over ambition and material wealth. People take the time to live, to know, to enjoy.

In the United States where money is king and material possessions the measure of success there is no time for il dolce far niente. Well, for most people. Some of us seem to have the notion of savoring hard-wired into us, though that doesn't mean we live it. We just long for it.
Some of us thrive on the 'go go go', 'earn earn earn', 'buy buy buy' mentality. I wonder if for these the idea of switching to a more mindful - heartful - philosophy might seem like laziness. The Greatest Generation certainly values hard work, working hard, and hard work. Understandable given what they've been through.

I suppose there is a happy medium somewhere. I like to think Tom and I have found it - at least most of the time. It's easy to become caught up in the competing rush, to lose sight of our true treasure, to run with the frantic throng of the busy. But who's leading the pack?

Certainly not the Italians.

"Do not follow the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself." ~~Zen Master Dogen


Alan said...

Yes, I spent some time in Rome, and when in Rome, my goodness, they do eat a lot, I don't know where they put it, and their almost reverence for food is in deed a tonic in itself.
Yes, working as much as you can, and earning same has got to change, so much so that we have to learn all over again, and set the principles anew. That wont be easy-trail and error, steady as she goes.

Cherie said...

" much so that we have to learn all over again, and set the principles anew." This is the conclusion I have drawn as well, Sean. First, educating oneself, then, baby steps and as you say, steady as she goes.

tshsmom said...

I've been trying to write a post on this same topic for awhile now. You said it far better than I EVER could!

We have been ridiculed by family and friends for our lack of "ambition". We simply don't want a monstrous house to heat and maintain, or a flashy new car every year, or exotic vacations.

We would rather have the TIME to enjoy family dinners, camping trips, starry evenings in our yard, the antics of the birds in our feeder, and silly or heartfelt conversations with our loved ones.

We seem to thrive on the challenge of making something from nothing.

Cherie said...

Here is where we agree 100%, Tshs. Underline your comments twice! : D

I feel like I write about this a lot and yet I don't realize it until after I've posted. It's a subject near and dear to my heart as I get frustrated by the frenzy of life around me. Everywhere you go, and on TV, just everywhere. It's annoying. Especially because I feel like the hurriers are not really getting anywhere that worth anything. Maybe it is to them.

tshsmom said...

Yup, that's us..frustrated and annoyed!
The hurriers that don't kill themselves, or their marriages, with stress, usually wind up alone and bitter. They can't understand why their kids don't want to spend time with them after they spent ALL that money raising them. They don't even have memories to comfort them, because they never took time to make any.

What a cold, lonely existence!

You're the only person I know, other than my own family, that understands this.

Ann said...

Hooray for doing nothing! My "nothing" in childhood was play! Nothing to accomplish, nothing to explain, nothing to solve....bliss.

Good post, Cherie!

tony said...

Where Abouts In Italy Did You Gp?
I know Only Genoa & Venice.
But Im looking at travelling more widely & Southerly Yhis Year.Any Suggestions?

Cherie said...

And you, Tshs, are a rare find in that you understand it, too! There's support and comfort in that for us, huh.

Ann, yes, childhood! Children are little Masters in the art of il dolce far niente. Bliss is right. Thanks.

Tony, sad to say that Italy still awaits my presence. I don't honestly remember what part of that country my friend visited, just that he enjoyed every minute and came back a calmer man. :D (I admit that I'm envious of you that you may get to go this year.)

Pam said...

Joe and I were just talking with some good folks who have begun embracing this very philosophy, at least with their meals. Their work is a whole 'nother story, but since they have limited time together, they make a HUGE production out of making a truly delicious and often complicated we've-never-made-this-before-but-let's-give-it-a-try type meal together, and then they spend a couple of hours enjoying what they've made and being nourished by both the good food, the fun time they had preparing it, and the reconnecting while eating it. They positively glow when they talk about these dinners.
Great post!

And I sure hope everyone is finally getting healthy over there!

Cherie said...

Fantastic, Pam! Thanks for sharing your friends' experience with reconnecting while preparing and eating meals even while time is limited for them. It's yet another way of incorporating the European idea of slowing down. I loved reading about it.

Happily, Tom is well enough to go back to work. His cough is still present but lessening. Caroline and Cassie are much better, well enough to attend their tutor classes tomorrow unless something unforeseen happens. Me? I feel better than I have in a long while. Whew! Been a loooong month! The girls and I are actually going to go down to the park to walk ourselves and Sam and feed the ducks (not the sports type, the fowl type!). I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for your good hopes for our wellness. :D

Pam said...

I'm glad you all are on the mend. I wonder if you guys had influenza...? That's making the rounds around here -- a strain not covered in this year's vaccine, apparently, as some who have the flu also had the shot. Dang.

Just take it easy, ALL of you! Take your time and work back up to the normal routine. (I'm not a doctor in real life, but I play one online.)

Sandy said...

Cherie, you're up and blogging yea! Florence was the place I visited and Rome. Both were like you describe. Even my son who did a semester in Florence became like the natives; there's always room for family pleasure, time, and love.

Mike S said...

Since retiring back here we've shed everything that wasn't absolutely necessary to live and kept but a few niceties such as The Old Indian's wide screen tv set-up and music system.
We're much happier now than we've ever been as a result. We have a small, easy to clean place, lotsa critters, terrific neighbors, and an overabundance of tranquility in which to observe the world passing slowly by:):)

Mike S said...

Forgot to mention that I lived for about a year each in Trieste, Florence, Milan, and for weeks at a time in several places on Sicily.
Wonderful times:)

Anonymous said...

As work feels less than fulfilling this week I really needed to read this post. Thank you!! I love the idea that the Italians believe "Family and friends are valued over ambition and material wealth. People take the time to live, to know, to enjoy" ... I want to adopt this.

Cherie said...

Thanks, Pam. Yes, I am quite sure it was flu and it's going around all over the place, even in Canada. Mercy. I'll take your advice, Dr. Pam, and take all the time I need to get my 'sea legs' back. Today was a terrific day, though, Really good. ;)

Sandy, I'm glad you verified what I've only read - and dreamed - about. I had forgotten that you'd been the Italy. Is your son still like a native or has he been Americanized once again?

Mike, you are a wise wise Old Indian Fella to choose to live the way you do. " overabundance of tranquility in which to observe the world passing slowly by." Perfect! And you spent all that time in Italy, too. Aren't memories wonderful! Sigh...

L.U. - Hi gal! Makes me happy to know the words of this post encouraged you, Des. So happy. It's a good way to look at life. Thanks for letting me know. Be well, friend!

deanna said...

I recognize the folks in the last photo! Looks like a fun time, and hopefully it was not rushed when it happened.

Cherie said...

Yeah, I though you might recognize these happy kids! And yes, it was very very fun. Video games, laughing, playing with the dog, swinging on the rope swing, pizza (from Abbey's - oh well, they loved it) and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Gonna repeat this one of these days. Hey, we want to have you and Tim over one of these days. Sound good?

deanna said...

Sounds fun! Can't wait. Oh, wait. I'll try and take things as they come. :o)

Cherie said...

; D

cecily said...

I haven't read all the comments, so maybe someone has said this before, but the slow food movement (and 'in praise of slow'... the book I'm trying to get slowly) all started in Italy.. I'm coming to the conclusion that busyness and tiredness are sin. Which means I sin a lot. But I'm working on it! I must away to reflect in my vegie patch.

I saw the book you mentioned on my post on Amazon and was very interested in it. I can recommend the Barbara Kingsolver one too!

Cherie said...

My true friend, Cecily, we are as near to having a face to face conversation about this subject near and dear to our hearts as a woman in Oregon, and one in Tassie can be. Your comment came even as I was putting the final touches on my next post.

The book I reference in that post informed me about the Slow Food movement. I was excited to see there is a chapter in Portland, where my son lives, a couple hours north of here. I want to read the book you mention - well, both of them.

I'm going to Amazon!

I think you are right that busyness and tiredness are certainly things that should alert us to the fact that we are perhaps misprioritizing (is that a word?) at the least. Maybe they are even sin, yes, you may be right. (If so, I too have a lot to fix.)

Thanks for the book recommendations, Cecily and the comment.