Embracing Far Niente


I recently shared some highlights from our Nashville trip, and as we head into Labor Day I wanted to share a secondary post about a theme that kept popping up during our visit. While we were in Tennessee the topic of boredom and the importance of doing nothing kept bubbling up to the surface. On our first morning there, we picked up a local magazine in cafe and were both struck by an article on the benefits of boredom. I jotted the section below down in my notebook: 

“In a culture as predicated on rapid productivity and instantaneous response as ours, to pursue or admit boredom feels to many of us like a shameful sin – an affliction that must remain hidden from ourselves and others. Despite the dearth of studies that link boredom to a full and creative life, and the medical profession’s championing of boredom as a natural antidote to anxiety and depression, it seems that our collective fear of boredom in the 21st century is more of a lived problem than an intellectual one.” 

“The linkage of boredom can be traced back to our Puritan past where hard labor, modesty, and an industrious work ethic equated to eternal salvation. Believing that boredom bogged down the body in inertia and led a path to brooding, the Puritans promoted a life of diligence and formed a talisman against mental and physical degeneration.” 

If it’s one thing the south will teach you, it’s to slow down. The difference in pace between Boston and Nashville was instantly palpable. At first it was a little discomforting to wait in a line for coffee with slower service speed than at home. I kept reminding myself, there’s not one single reason to be in a rush and tried my best to keep my foot from tapping. 

After just a day or two, the change was a welcome one. Everyone took the time to greet each other and is genuinely interested to know about you. We talked with Uber drivers, with folks waiting alongside us in line, and of course, bartenders.

Another article that we came across during our trip from Kinfolk, echoed the same sentiment, talking about the culture of far niente (to do nothing). The article says, “In Rome, doing nothing is an activity, and as if to justify its presence, those who take part tend to be masters. Far niente reaches its inactive zenith when it becomes a dolce far niente; the sweet, blissful nirvana of disoccupation.” In Italy it’s part of the norm to spend hours people watching in a cafe, or to lounge on your stoop. In Italy it’s completely normal to spend hours catching up with friends in a cafe, and I think we could all use a little more of that in our lives.

This recurring theme was a nice reminder to that sometimes it’s ok to just c h i l l. In a culture that glorifies busy, there’s something so lovely about slowing down, having no plans, and just seeing where the day takes you. With that in mind, let’s all relax and reset over this 3 day weekend, and remember that sometimes it’s a beautiful thing to be bored.

“Creativity can never be used up, the more you use, the more you have.” 

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