Sitting with my Italian architect in the central piazza of the hilltop town of Citta della Pieve a couple of weeks ago, drinking my second capucchino, the conversation turned to quality of life. He told me he went to high school and college in the U.S. and, after he became an architect and returned to Italy, he was offered a job with a large architectural firm in Texas.

      It was a lot more money than he was making in Italy, and they offered him the possibility of being involved in major projects at a senior level. However, on deeper investigation, it also involved belonging to right church, attending the right cocktail parties, sending his kids to the right schools, and, in general, spending all that extra money, and probably more, to maintain the proper image that his exalted position in the community would require. All to maintain a quality of life that he already had. Further, he realized that his lifestyle in Italy was better, in most cases far better than what he was being offered. To his great credit, he said thanks, but no thanks. He has no regrets.

      The conversation made me think about “quality of life” decisions and their importance, versus the expectations of an external world that is constantly trying to define for us what “success” means.

      Perhaps these are just musings of a person coming near to the end of his career and his life, although that sounds a trifle morbid. However, on reflection, I should have thought of this a great deal more, much earlier.

      Sitting in that piazza, I had already committed the cardinal sin of the modern world; I had left my cell phone in the car and consequently had no access to all that news noise that constantly bombards our consciousness and, without which, we would almost certainly die within minutes.          

      The tranquility was almost overwhelming. Stopping to smell the roses came to mind as an almost forgotten philosophy of life.

      This next comment may seem a little petty, and out of line with what I said above, but I think it is all part of the constant rush to nowhere that we all seem to be engaged in almost every moment of our lives these days.

      Sitting in that restaurant in Citta della Pieve, and sitting in others during my week in Umbria, I realized that the menus hadn’t changed, probably for decades, if not more. On my return to Colorado, my partner and I went to a local restaurant and discovered the place had been completely revamped and the menu changed. On asking why, we were told that they had to keep changing things to keep the customers coming. We both asked, in our heads, why, and why was that necessary. We agreed that this constant need for change is not the definition of quality of life, at least for us, and, maybe, not for a lot of other people.

      We obviously can’t stop progress, good and bad, but we can stop to reflect what we want out of life – smelling the roses – and, perhaps, we can slow this headlong rush to nowhere (it may be somewhere, but we don’t take the time to figure out where that is. So, in effect, it is nowhere).

      Will the world pass us by if we do that, perhaps, but we will be attempting to control our quality of life, defined by us, individually. Rather like my architectural friend in Italy, we will have made a conscious choice rather than continuing blindly on the current societal roller-coaster that is defined for us.

      This is a blog that is a bit more philosophical than usual but one on which I would be interested in receiving reactions. In truth, it also needs a lot more thought and exploration as a concept, and I will attempt to do that in future scribblings. I hope you will join me.

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