The art of effortless ease. Except like the proverbial swan, it’s serene on the surface but going like the clappers underneath…

Many associate the word with flamboyant Italian fashion, but it goes deeper than that. Coined by the sixteenth-century writer Baldassare Castiglione, it means “a kind of graceful restraint that is an elemental characteristic of true civility”. It was first applied to art and social interaction and only later to clothes. It is quite the opposite of self-conscious flamboyance, or indeed of wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve.

If modern secular life is about anything, then it is about a life well lived; whether you attribute it to a particular god or just chance, making the best of our time here is a sign of respect to both our own lives and those around us. A little panache and flair can transform the experience of life. But effortless it is not: like most bounty it has to be learned, earned  and practised – and more than that, reflected upon.

It has little to do with money; it’s more about effort and appreciation, of  savouring things and not taking them for granted. That said, quality can come with a price, in which case the advice is “go with the best you can afford, not the cheapest you can find”.

So I suppose I am taking a very liberal reading of the word, looking for things that make living good, that ignite the imagination, from wherever they come. I take it to refer to thought as well as deed, the trivial as well as the profound, the collective as well as the individual. I find variety enriching, and in all cases things that reward the care of being done well – despite their appearing effortless.

I.J. Stock, Essex U.K., July 2017