It doesn’t take any learning to live the fjaka way of life. But this concept stemming from the land of Croatia sure calls for a lot of unlearning to appreciate the essence of its simplicity. Inherent in the living psyche of the Dalmatians is this peculiar approach to life, that which however rests in the same staidness that is integral to existences in different parts of the world. As something rooted in myriad concepts that speak of nothing in particular yet alludes to everything as a whole, like that does stillness, laziness, laidbackness, and associated, sometimes profound, sometimes triflous understandings of nothingness, not however in that appalling awareness of doom but rather in a manner more relaxant, more carefree, more lively even when succumbing to the seemingly grave concern of what might come across as leaving it all to fate, and therefore precariously treading along the lines of a mundanity seldom appreciable, fjaka, however exclusively crucial to the culture of this existence in the Balkans might not be an entirely novel encounter within the realms of it, physically.
There can be a lot of parallels that fjaka might draw from such equally peculiar realisations characterising different cultures all over the world. But equating all these concepts in what they encompass in their spirit is not exactly the same in what they come to define within nativities and traditions. Often compared to the Spanish concept of siesta, fjaka however, by our own understanding, might not be really an apt synonym for the short daytime nap that is in fact known by a different term, pižolot, in coastal Croatia. The Mediterranean climate sure is the binding factor here, with hot, sunny days wearing off folks inducing them therefore to willingly but involuntarily as well slip into the allure that the nothingness guarantees in its, ironical realisation through existence. But while siesta definitely means lulling to sleep by the uncomfortable yet easy charm of the weather, fjaka isn’t always about snoozing off, traditionally after the midday meal. To such extents therefore, fjaka can tend to be less ‘physical’ than its associated, and equally exotic sounding, interest inciting concepts.
And it is exactly in such realms of the abstract that fjaka lies that makes it difficult to define it as a concept in itself, even when it is one so integral to the Dalmatian identity. Eternally recognised though still within the geographical ambits of the land it so washes over in all potency, fjaka is a treasured, even longed for exertion brought about by the weather, but ingrained now within the awareness of the nation as something that is a part of their culture. This is because, even without the fury of the afternoon sun or the ravages of the season, fjaka can still capture one and sundry in its particularly trance like state of being. So rooted is fjaka today as a way of life within the Croatian existence that not succumbing to its effects is a concern greater than what blissfully surrendering to what should have been a dubious but that indeed has turned out to be a requirement quite readily adhered to by folks, should have been, deriving thereby their daily pleasure of life in something as seemingly futile as it. Defying the terms of translation, and therefore shielding itself from the perilous idea of losing its identity in it is fjaka, that which however might be interpreted as a distant cousin of an awareness of similar nothingness rooted in La Italia. The Italians believe in dolce far niente, or the sweetness of doing nothing, that comes close to what the Croatians live by as well, coming across as though more of a compulsion, which tends also to be rather choicy in itself, but still nurturing the peculiar bliss that the yet again ironical sounding pursuit of the nothingness can lead one into. Unsurprisingly therefore, the very term ‘fjaka’ derives from the Italian fiacca, meaning weariness, existing as a state of both body and mind and catering also to everything in between them all.
Essentially as a detour for the body that can’t seem to take the sapping heat of the Mediterranean summers, fjaka is very real. And even when it might appear to be a mindless way of resignation to mindfulness to those who have experienced the need nor the necessity of it, fjaka is more than a lifestyle tradition. Fjaka isn’t also something you understand completely and largely as relaxation. It indeed is relaxation but it still isn’t exclusive to that particular encompassment of life’s luxury. With fjaka, you just lie there somewhere, somewhere comfortable, whether it be sprawling out on your bed, basking across the golden sands of some beach, or just positioning yourself on one of the many benches in any of the many parks around the city, deriving innately from that gift of the God that all Dalmatians are born blessed with. Precious even when there really is nothing about it, apparently, fjaka is where you ease yourself into a psychophysical state of mind with aspiration for nothing, cut off from all worldly worries, an unusual realisation of affairs that only comes to reveal itself fully in its true meaning when you actually are fortunate enough to experience it first hand. And it is then that you realise that life isn’t always about articulation, it is also about the feels of it, a certain feeling of palpable bliss that while might not stem from ‘legit’ reasons of happiness, still harbours a charm more quaint and much more desirable. Generally a regenerating summer habit that is expected to replenish the body what with the harsh Mediterranean sun wreaking havoc, fjaka extends also, and mainly to the realms of the mindful extents of the human essence.
Such profound impact notwithstanding whatsoever in a world obsessed with getting things done, this fjaka art of doing nothing, whether induced, whether voluntary, can very well be subjected to such interpretations that look down upon it as an excuse for laziness. Fjaka isn’t also the most appropriate description of fatigue, even when it can be brought about by it. In its unhurried pace of going about life, laidback and unrushed, fjaka would in fact be more appropriate as the idealistic way to live life. In seeking refuge in what might be seen as the unproductive, fjaka can also reveal itself to be a surprisingly effective means to productivity.
‘A faint unconsciousness’, as Croatian poet Jakša Fiamengo describes it, fjaka encompasses everything from indifferent to unbothered, yet never in the least guided by a weary awareness of life, nor by exalted impressions of it. To that extent, fjaka isn’t anything particularly good or something certainly bad, existing instead as an exercise of the ordinary, in everyday pursuit, a passive way through languidity, unintentional maybe but nonetheless significant in bringing to fore a view of life that dwells in living in the moment. It’s not something you strive to achieve, you simply do because that’s the way it works, or it doesn’t. Being caught by fjaka is something very real perhaps for every one of us but not something we necessarily identify as a concept, maybe for the simple fact that we do not have a particular word in our vocabulary that recognises the all pervading nature of this presence. Persuasive yet not coaxing, the fjaka tendency to slow down is sometimes exactly the thing we need at some point of time in our lives, irrespective of whether we are aware of it or not. As a sublime state of the mind that leaves you unoccupied and yet not has you feeling the drained kind of empty, this open secret of the Dalmatians is no less than any evolutionary trait that today constitutes a pivotal part of their heritage. As a concept itself, fjaka is as rooted in the doctrine of indifference that it perpetuates. In staving off work that are not of a particularly urgent basis, fjaka also is the luxury of choice- something you choose to do irrespective of whether you can afford it or not. Fjaka therefore also is indulgence as it is independence, independent of the fussy obsessions of life, choosing to return to the indulgence of them as and when deemed opportune to one’s interests.
Despite all of such peerings into the evocative notions of it, fjaka does not cease to embody significance in its physicality, as being a survival style of the Dalmatians who have to experience the harshness of a scorching summer sun in a region continuously dictating life in lethargy, subject to temperatures as high as 40 degrees. For everyone therefore set back differently by the different turns of the weather, fjaka can be a wholly different experience as well. Individualistic even in its empirical basis, even when being so distinctly exclusive to Croatia, the realisation of a fjaka persists in also a certain rhythm, acting out through means that can be stated best as ‘to each their own’. What sets fjaka apart from other such similar but distinct lifestyle encompassments is its refusal to stand out. Devoid of a striking premise on which it rests, existing instead in nothing in particular, in an amalgamation of all, this elusive concept that might ultimately be all in the mind reveals itself to be surprisingly commonplace when it stems from exertions more tangible. In its addictive energy that renders one so laidback that they wouldn’t rather be any place else than where they are in the moments, experiencing life sans all profound reiterations of it, fjaka is therapy and therefore a very valued state of life itself. With a host of health benefits as well to back its serendipitous occurrence, fjaka perhaps is the definition of the ideal life we need not master, but only live in perfect mindful mindlessness, that should not necessarily be fun and frolic, but contented nothingness.