The sweetness of doing nothing


What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

These lines from William Henry Davies’ poem, Leisure, point out the fast life which we all lead. A regular day starts with us paying respect to our iPhones, and acknowledging notifications on Facebook from our thousand virtual friends. Post that hurried breakfast, there is a flurry of e-mails to take care of, traffic jams, incessant phone calls, power lunch, commitments and seemingly endless to-do lists which don’t leave us even a second to breathe. Pause.

Now picture this. When was the last time you indulged in a long siesta without the pangs of guilt overcoming you? Have you walked in the park lately (minus gadgetry) taking in the greenery and watched the kids swing? Isn’t it a million years ago that you lingered with your coffee by your window in peace? Have you of late experienced happiness in doing nothing?

Most of our answers would be an outright ‘No’. We haven’t. Instead we all want to read the newspaper while eating, connect on the phone while driving, and text or play I-pad games while spending time with our loved ones. The advancement of technology is making us find cleverer ways to multitask. As a society, our minds have been conditioned from childhood to constantly accomplish something every day and always be on the move. The success of our day is measured by what we achieve and not by what made us happy.

Amidst the information-overload-filled life that I was leading, I recently came across this beautiful Italian phrase, ‘ Dolce Far Niente’ which simply means The sweetness of doing nothing. Now please don’t confuse ‘doing nothing’ with laziness and take a moment to reflect why it is a way of life for the sensible Italians. The expression simply means slowing down, without hurling your mind in multiple directions, taking in the surroundings and just being. There is no rule book which says there has to be a purpose for every action of ours. In a society which respects us only if our appointment diaries are full, the thought of doing nothing, even briefly, seemed alien to me. We are invisible prisoners of our own thoughts. Idleness isn’t the demon which we make it out to be. Pleasant idleness minus the worry is a luxury we must all practise. Always having the desire to be on the move doesn’t allow us to be happy where we are and wants us to be somewhere else all the time.

The Italians even have a new movement called ‘ Italian Yoga’, founded by Peter Catizone, which is the fine art of, ‘sitting at the corner café with espresso, cannoli and good friends’. This yoga without exercise involves telling stories, jokes, lounging and doing anything to distract one from the idea of work. A Chennai-based Italian, Marco Massano, shares this view, “ Dolce Far Niente is a way to laze around, enjoying the pleasures of Nature and idleness.”