The Art of Doing Nothing

By October 23, 20102010, Asia

As westerners we are engraved with the obsession of time. Being on time, making good time, running out of time–our super-scheduled lives eventually become the norm for western culture.

Upon meeting my host family and becoming acquainted with their community, the first thing I noticed was their ‘laid-back’ nature. When we arrived at the home we were immediately met by neighbours and family. The courtyard was filled with chatting ladies and playing children. I found this wonderfully refreshing and assumed they were here because of our arrival (of course my western mentality would think this, after all are we not the center of the world). As the days have gone on I am realizing that this is daily life for them. This strong sense of community seems to be deeply rooted within Filipino culture. As one of our professors stated in a lecture yesturday, Filipino life is centered on the family–it is their sense of stability. This is highly contrasting to the average Canadian whose stability lies within the support of the government (whether we realize it or not).

My point in writing this blog is to relay the Filipino sense of time, or lack thereof. On my first day in Laoag City the neighbours of my homestay decided to take us out to see the city. We (my roomate and I) sat around talking and waiting, all the while I was thinking that we should hurry up as not to be late for our dinner plans. Eventually we did go and when we returned I expected to find our host mother rushing us out the door, but instead we continued to sit and talk, becoming later and later for our plans. Due to my western mentality of the importance of being on time, I was becoming a little stressed.

After being here less than a week I have learned that Filipinos, by my own standards, are always late. However by their own standards they ‘arrive when they arrive’.

A society not enslaved by the chains of time proves to be much more relaxing and, surprisingly, productive. Though this place has not lost all sense of time their attitudes seem to model that which we were meant to have. The Italians also share in this mentality and they have a lovely term for it, “il dolce far niente” meaning “the art of doing nothing“. It is an art that we, living in the western world, have lost but would do good to recapture.


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