I’ve always had a problem with the way Sicilian’s trivialise the outside world while dissecting every minimal aspect of their own daily life. The world beyond Sicily has little significance, yet you can live out your life before a local community, with a microscope pointed firmly at you. It is strange to watch them act out their bizarre melodrama filled with malignant gossip.
Closed in tightly to one another, in an often isolated life, muffled in the maternal smothering of a domineering motherland the people here don’t think much about other things beyond themselves. Who knows of war’s in the Middle East, women’s rights in Afghanistan or tsunamis in Asia, other than simple five-minute news flashes.
After all, it happens far away on the other side of the mountains. Here people worry about things like getting married and having children. Or the price of bread, pensions, the weather and how the tomato harvest will go for their sauce production, such as a life of slow living. Such is small town living.
People are content to just get by. They aren’t too fussed about what job they do as long as it’s a job and they get paid. They don’t worry about the end of the world or global warming as long as they can have a good gossip with their friends, eat well and be comfortable. They don’t overthink and are more content for it.
Life in Sicily isn’t dictated by work or ambition, and that is why it’s such an attractive place to live. All Italian’s, to a certain extent, have perfected the art of living in the moment. And that makes them some of the most content people in the world.
Sicilians are occupied with day to day living. Centuries of bloody dominations have taught them that property, positions and wealth can quickly be taken away, so they have learnt to live with nothing. The most important thing here is merely to live. After all, you can’t take it all with you, can you? It’s all a little too indulgent for me. What about the innate human desire for bettering oneself or contributing something to the world? Whether it be intellectual or economical, don’t we all desire movement towards a better future?
I find living for the moment, too selfish. I worry too much about my family’s future and about developing ideas. I think too much about my journey to live out my potential, ways I can find my spark and find a way to shine. I’ve always been a restless soul, never content with what I have, but this is what keeps me motivated. I’m young enough to want to run instead of walk and it is stifling when things are going too slowly.
The only negativity in Sicilians’ lives is when there is a funeral or imminent death. Their anguished faces are shielded by individual suffering. Even then this is all taken with a pinch of fatalistic philosophy: when it comes, it comes, all we can do is wait for death.
Until mortality greets us, we can forget about death in the day-to-day routine. Distracted by summers at the beach, autumns collecting mushrooms, winters eating fresh pork sausages and sipping wine and laughing with friends and springtime with a gleaming warmth marked by the mimosas gilded blossom.
It is a subtly arrogant lifestyle as if they are living the good life. Isolated from everything else, with nothing questioned, no need or even desire to go beyond their place. Why should they when they are already living such a perfect life?
This romantic way of life has really been shaken by the current pandemic. I think Italians are suffering through the beginning of a second lockdown and are continuing to be stunned to the core. Because they ultimately live for the little things that they are being asked to give up. As the small moments are what they live for. Many everyday things like coffee at the local bar, a meal at a restaurant, socialising, going for a walk in the piazza and being part of a local community. These actions are more than habits, they form a part of their identity. It has been terribly traumatic for them.
It’s been a bit of a rough couple of weeks here in my usually tranquil Sicilian village. Covid is causing havoc all around the world, and for the first time outside world, troubles have reached little old Sinagra.
There have been several cases of Covid in the local primary school, which led to the entire school community being tested. The result has been hundreds of families placed in quarantine. Thankfully most of the children are asymptomatic, but the whole town is suffering.
I read a poignant Facebook post from a local mother and former student of mine who posed the question: According to you, what will we learn from what is happening now?
Most people answered along the lines that the majority will learn nothing because people are basically always the same.
I took a moment to reflect and wrote this reply to her which I think is a message for many people suffering at this time:
I was thinking about your sensitive and heartbreaking question.
I believe most emotionally aware people understand that life right now isn’t about money or work, but holding on tight to loved ones.
Perhaps I’m too much of an idealist.
I can only speak for myself. In these days, it has been the small things that have helped me—so many moments like spending time with my own little family. Or looking after my son, trying to teach him something new each day, a cuddle. A message from or to a friend, a conversation even on Skype helps more than anything else.
Taking life one day at a time is all we can do for now.
Somehow we’ll struggle through economically.
It’s love that helps more than anything. Whether it be the love of family, of genuine friendships or the love we have for ourselves. It’s all a subtle act of faith.
We can survive even terrible things.
Talk and gossip is nothing, it tires itself out and dissipates into the air. What we have inside of us is what gives us strength.
There is always something lifting us up and helping us to rise every day.
Sending hope to anyone who needs it.