In the movie, “Eat, Pray, Love”, there is a saying that the main character hears when she arrives in Italy… “Il dolce far niente…” – It means, “The sweetness of doing nothing…”
Liz (played by Julia Roberts) has Italian friends who make her feel almost criminal because she, like most Americans, views time as a commodity. This character wants to find out just what doing nothing feels like. So, the author paints a lovely picture of a woman sitting alone at her own personal indoor picnic draped in silk and doing nothing but relishing the taste of the food… “Il dolce far niente…”
Watching this part of the movie, I thought, “Mmmm… Sounds wonderful…” Even the Italian words, “Il dolce far niente…” seem to conjure up warm Tuscan sunlight filtering through a window… flecks of dust suspended in golden shafts of light… (insert contented sigh and a stolen sip of Pinot here).
But wait! Stop the film… turn on the lights… now is the time for me to come back to my real world, the one where I DEFINITELY don’t live in Tuscany. The place where, even if I was bold enough to swath myself in a silk kimono and lay a blanket on my living room floor with a plate of plump grapes and a few slices of prosciutto on a Sunday afternoon, I would not be truly enjoying myself. Sure, I like a quiet day to read or do whatever as much as the next chick… but what I really love doing is… well… DOING!
Being active sparks creativity within me and makes me come alive. Those days when I am forced into inactivity are the ones where I fret… I languish.
If some say doing nothing equals serenity, I would argue instead that when we actually do something, we are more vibrant and in tune with life. Certainly the Italians portrayed in this movie would be scandalized, but I truly like work… the kind of work that makes your muscles ache or stretches your intellect or expands your spirit. If you find beauty in doing nothing, then great… go ahead! But consider what can happen when you move, create and engage life. Then you can know the sweetness of doing something… “Il dolce far qualcosa…” then you will find a more lasting feeling of happiness and peace… whether you are Italian or not!
Jennifer Michael, of Pensacola, Fla., serves as president of Women of the ELCA for the 2011-2014 triennium.