What did the Romans ever do for us?
Apart from the Aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, education, wine and public order what did the Romans ever do for us?
Yes, Otium, the Romans’ forerunner to our concept of wellbeing. To contrast their military and political endeavours they devoted time to focus on the progress of their soul through writing, philosophy, health, tranquility and other pursuits.
What was good enough for the Romans is certainly good enough for us to pursue rejuvenation and relaxation to manage the stress and anxiety generated by our 24×7 lifestyle and achieve better wellbeing.
Thanks to Marisa Murgatroyd (liveyourmessage.com) for this interesting research.
On a recent trip to Italy she discovered the Roman concepts of “otium” (leisure time) and “negotium” (business and daily affairs).
“As we learned about these concepts, I realized that Otium was the most advanced concept of leisure I’ve ever seen. And it totally explains HOW the Romans were able to achieve so much, and how you can achieve so much more in your life and business, too, if you try this…
So what did the Romans do during these times of otium?
They were very clear that this wasn’t a time of sloth or “the selfish pursuit of pleasure”.
For them, otium was a time to put aside political or career gains and focus on the progress of their soul. It was time to devote to writing, philosophy, reading, meditation, contemplation, serious research, sharing thoughts and ideas, friendship, health, tranquility, the appreciation of nature, exercise, bathing (in grand Roman style), playing, and solitude. And they created beautiful villas and gardens devoted to these activities.
They believed in keeping an active mind during leisure, to vacate et videte or “be still and see”. Leisure was to the Romans, the ultimate form of meditation and contemplation. And I’d bet heavily that it was this holistic approach to leisure that helped make their civilization almost unstoppable.
As the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus said, he was never less idle than when he was at leisure, and never less lonely than when he was alone.
Here were the Romans who had conquered the world (creating the largest empire ever seen), the Gods (chiseling the most faithful renditions ever seen of man in marble and erecting gravity-defying basilicas in tribute to the divine), and Nature (taming water in their giant aqueducts)… and the idea of balancing otium & negotium was a central tenet.
Achievement requires rejuvenation, which fuels greater achievement, which requires more rejuvenation. That was the rhythm of their lives.
If you look at athletes and high performers, the science of full engagement and “heartmath”, they all talk the relationship between peak performance and rest.
In a culture based on doing and achieving, I find the concept of otium super inspiring. Leisure is something of a lost art…. so I listened intently as my dad encouraged me to take on hobbies that have nothing to do do with business, since my childhood hobbies of reading, writing and art have been absorbed by the business. It’s what I do everyday anyway… so why not trying something new? Something different? Perhaps something physical like hiking, pilates, or dance? Or something more contemplative like transcendental meditation? Something that would allow me to fully present and lose all sense of time and responsibility?”