Dolce 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.