$Monday: Develop a Taste for "Il dolce far niente"

By now you should have heard the cute stories and the dire warnings coming out of Italy, which is about two weeks ahead of us in the pandemic timeline. In Bergamo, there is now nothing left to do but try to enjoy "il dolce far niente," translated as "the sweetness of doing nothing."

Unfortunately, Italian culture also has some of the same individualistic, I-do-what-I-want attitudes that the United States has, and that is why Italians are currently dying in their homes and in hospital corridors and parking lots because one of the best-funded health care systems in the world has collapsed.

Within this catastrophe, which may not be prevented from happening here in the United States before Easter due to St. Patrick's Day idiocy and wannabe cowboys, there is opportunity.

One of those opportunities is learning to let go of bad spending habits and bad health habits immediately.

When I lived in Rome about 15 years ago, there was a saying I heard often in both Italian and English. It was something like, "If you can't, you don't have to." This was the shake-it-off attitude of millions of people who often found themselves without transportation because their car was trapped inside of a curbside triple-parking situation, or the buses were on strike again, or the trains were on strike again, or public transportation systems weren't on strike but were running a few hours behind, or some combination of those.

Any excuse for il dolce far niente will do--unless it is recommended by authority, of course. In that case, vaffanc*lo, I do what I want!

Sound familiar?

Two weeks, friends. It would be wise to begin changing your habits now. Quit smoking. Quit drinking. Quit shopping compulsively. Learn to cook and clean and stay home. Go ahead and turn off the news to save your sanity, but don't forget yourself and go out and take unnecessary risks. Develop a taste for il dolce far niente before the hospitals and the morgues overflow and there's nobody left to donate to your gofundme for your 11th dead relative's funeral costs.

It's spring. Look out the window. See a bird. Go out on the porch. Play in the yard. Stay six feet away from your neighbors.

Think about all the money you're saving, in addition to lives, during this pause from everyday life. Think about the good habits you can develop now, while you wait. Doing nothing is a valuable skill, even when there isn't a disaster unfolding outside your home. It's a difficult concept in American culture, but as I wrote about long before this mess began, it is always true that someone has to do nothing.

There are people who, for a variety of practical and economic reasons, cannot avoid contact with people outside of their own home right now. So it is all the more important for those who can, that we do.


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