Dolce Far Niente – Sweet Doing Nothing

dolce-far-niente-john-william-godwardDolce Far Niente by John William Godward

This is a painting which I love, it’s something about the feeling it emanates which touches me the most.

I know the tiger skin rug is very baaaaaad! Perhaps that’s what makes this image sweeter because in life some of the sweetest things are also the baddest… at least the things which are bad according to uptight opinion and the rebel in us all finds it sweet to do what we are told we are not allowed to do.

I like to imagine that the tiger died of old age and he was very loved when he was alive (yes, it could be a tigress) and the lady in the painting made a rug out of his skin (after he died) so she could always be near him in those moments when she missed him the most.His presence in her life gave her something which no other presence could give her. He was unique… as are all beings.

We can’t skin our loved ones when they die, not without incurring the wrath of public opinion and the legal system, and even we may find that disgusting and disrespectful… however we do keep mementos to remind us of how wonderful it was to have that precious being in our lives. The physical skin is not the only skin we have. Memories are skin too. And mementos are memories in which we wrap ourselves up for a moment. Oh what a moment. Time stands still, the world around us evaporates.

So, doing nothing… sometimes it is very sweet. It is a moment of just being. The most precious people in my life are those who accept me as is. I don’t have to do anything. I don’t need to win their love or approval or meet their needs or expectations. They like me as I am. That is priceless.

Doing nothing can also be a great challenge. Society has many words for those who do nothing and most of those words have a negative connotation. Doing nothing is considered idleness and thus a road to hell with our hands being the worst culprits. And yet the same can be said about doing too much. Sometimes doing nothing is what is needed to resolve a problem and doing something makes it worse.

Doing nothing can also be the most helpless feeling in the world… when there is nothing we can do, and nothing we do can save someone we love.

So, doing nothing can also be sweet in a very bittersweet way.

If only I had… sigh! But I didn’t, which means that somehow I couldn’t and I have to accept that even if it hurts, perhaps because it hurts.

Sometimes what and who is precious can only be known once it or they are gone. Life is… what it is and so are we. Pain, loss and regret are a part of life and of us.

Those I find least precious are those who make me feel that my purpose in life is to hate myself. Those who constantly remind you of the bad things they think you have done, those who never accept you, who want you to be someone you are not because they can’t accept themselves and so why should you be allowed to accept yourself. They need you to feel as bad as they do… if that brought them solace perhaps it would be worth it, but they are never happy or satisfied. They are the misery which loves company… and they make you wish you were not that company they love.

Those people remind us of how much we affect others with our attitudes towards ourselves. If we can accept and love ourselves and view ourselves as being precious to ourselves, that ripples out of us and gives others the same feeling about themselves, and thus when people are with you, they feel good about themselves because you feel good about yourself.

This image reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.” ― Rumi

That, to me, is dolce far niente – sweet doing nothing. It’s not a passive act of doing nothing, it is not helpless, it is a powerful gesture, it is very active and deeply meaningful.

Sometimes by doing nothing… we do everything.


  1. This reminds me of my neighbors who stuffed their cat. The first time I saw it, sitting by their fire hearth, I though it was a stuffed doll. Nope, it was a real stuffed cat. They really loved their cat. To each their own but every time I saw it I thought it was creepy. I have a cat that spends 100% of her day trying sit on me. She loves me and is a cuddle monster, but when she dies I am not going to stuff her. I will let her go to kitty heaven, filled with all the mice, canned tuna and tummy rubs she can get. That is really nice of you to think the tiger rug was her pet kitty. I have my doubts though. I could go into detail on what I think happened but like my sister tells me when I tell her about death and dismemberment: ” Tell me about rainbows, soft kitties and fluffy stuff.” So yes, the tiger was her special pet she loved. And the marble would be very cold to lay on, so thank you pet kitty.
    And she is not doing nothing. (I don’t think that sentence is grammatically correct) She is posing for a painting. She is the center of attention for Godward. Yep, sometimes by doing nothing-we do everything.


    • Made me chuckle 😀

      There’s a film called Taxidermia (2006). It is deeply disturbing and utterly fascinating and I enjoyed it. So, let’s just say I tend to roll my eyes a bit when it comes to rainbows and fluffy stuff.

      Soft kitties on the other hand… well, I think they’re all tigers. Mine has a similar approach to my lap as yours. I am fairly certain when I die, it will stuff me and finally be able to sit on my lap all day and night without the human doing that getting up and moving around thing.

      You’re right, she is doing something. She’s talking to the bird 😉 And posing for an artist is exceedingly painful when you have to stay very still and hold the pose, the arm in the air would have made those muscles burn. I like to make up stories about paintings, I learned to do that as a child when I had to sit very still and do nothing for long stretches of time. The body may be still, but the mind rarely is.


      • “Have you stuffed and sit on your lap all day and night.” That is so true and very funny. I also thought about my cat trying to sit on me 100% of the time which is an incorrect statement. Because she actually spends most of her day sleeping and the rest of her time dreaming about sleeping.


        • I like your cat, a wise one indeed. And a lucky one to have such an understanding human to care for her. What a wonderful life! There is great wisdom in the way of the cat… I’m taking a cue from my cat this end of year time and just doing that curling up and sleeping in a warm place thing as much as a human can. I kind of think that being human is several levels beneath being a cat, they seem to have this life thing sussed by sleeping through it most of the time 😉


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