For Sam Coten, a recent trip to Italy offered perspective on the importance of working to live, rather than living to work. Sam is a law student from Perth, WA.
Dolce far niente– ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’.
An idea brought to life in by Liz Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, but a concept too often forgotten. When was the last time you did nothing? Like, actually nothing.
I’m not talking about a romantic trip up the coast where you slipped you laptop into your bag to tap away at your work late at night behind your partner’s back– I’m talking about actually doing nothing. In the military mundane of routine, it’s easy to forget how nice it actually feels to drop the diary for a bit, and take back control of life.
Us Australians, along with the British and the Americans are, by generalisation, very career-driven. We eat lunch at our desks and drop lettuce on our keyboards, we pull late nights at the office with greasy takeaway dinners and are fuelled by anything that contains caffeine and sugar. We tell people we need stress to function properly. More often than not, we live to work. We let ourselves be defined by our work; we let it dictate our free time, our bedtime, and our diets. Work is our ruler by evolution– we’ve just let it be so.
So where does dolce far niente come into play?
Of course, I’m generalising here, but where Aussies and others live to work, Italians work to live. They work to enjoy life’s little satisfactions. Those small mindful moments like that morning coffee and cornetto from the bar, that simple sit-down lunch or that evening aperitivo with friends before dinner. It is a day not structured by work– it is a day that dictates work.
It is a far healthier lifestyle than the one I’ve come to know back home. In fact, I was once asked, ‘why do all Australians suffer from depression?’ To the everyday Italian going about their work, our statistics in the realm of mental illness are incomprehensible. I don’t want to open another can of worms, but maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with our reluctance to do nothing; to sit for a while and be mindful.
So perhaps we can learn something from the Italian way of life. Perhaps, among all the pasta, wine and coffee, there is a more critical lifestyle lesson for us to look to. After all, it’s nothing more than a simple reversal of priorities that in itself form the basis of mindfulness.
It is the simplicity of living in the moment and sometimes, the sweetness of just doing nothing at all.