Saturday, February 6, 2010

Il Bel Far Niente

I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
and last night I read as Liz (because we're tight, you know, I call her Liz. I also call Shakespeare "Bill", but that's for a different post.) explained about il bel far niente: the beauty of doing nothing. I loved this paragraph about Americans how we seek to be entertained and our inability to do nothing and wanted to share it with you.

"Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Our 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 loner and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today. But as Luca Spaghettie 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 out of a 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 overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax."

Whoa. How true is that?! So often, on the weekend, I feel guilty because I don't want to do anything. I don't want to go to a movie or even shopping. I just want to stay home and read a book or play with paints. I guess that's still doing something, but it's not something interesting or something important or even something with people. And when I go on vacation, I always want to be going somewhere, buying something, seeing something that I can't see at home.

Maybe, as Amercians, we can't dedicate a month or a week to doing nothing and/or seeking pleasure. We don't live in Europe; our world is very different from theirs (I know this to be true as I lived in Europe for 18 months), but we can learn something from them. Can we take a day and do nothing? Can we take a couple hours a day and do something that brings us pleasure? What do you think? What would you do if you gave yourself a day to enjoy il bel far niente?


Amy said...

Hey, so it's OK for me to fly to Arizona during Spring Break to sit by the pool and read a book for two days? :)

Bonnie said...

I read that book several years ago. I was so inspired by the way "Liz" was able to express herself verbally. Definitely not one of my talents. I guess that's why I not an English teacher, or a writer.

liesel said...

Well said!!! Yes, I loved that book. And that comment in particular is quite insightful. It is an art to savor the present. It sounds like you've mastered it! Seeing how other cultures handle this does really help too. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I'm very excited for the Tins Charming class too. We are all going to have a lot of fun! : ) Looking forward to meeting you!

orangemily said...

I don't know, I'm pretty good at doing nothing and I take great pleasure in it! But it's true that I've never done it for a whole day, I'd like to.