The Sprezzatura Field

Sprezzatura. A beautiful Italian word meaning the art of effortless master; a nonchalant concealtment of art; careful negligence; the genius made looks easy. Just saying the word ‘sprezzatura’ sounds like what it means. It has a flow-like essence ot it with the two z’s in the middle acting like a channel through which all effortless genius can flow.

Baldassare Castiglione coined the word in the 16th century in his book, The Book of the Courtier, which described factors and conditions of what make a perfect courtier, one who attends the royal court as a companion or adviser to monarchs and figures of royalty. These courtiers were performers who entertained and sought approval of their audience. Castiglione says courtiers must have grazia or grace, where each and every movement they make “conceals art, and presents what is done and said as if it was done without effort and virtually without thought.”

What’s interesting about sprezzatura is that it is often thought to be something that can be achieved or attained; a tangible substance that can be measured and quantified according to a set of parameters and metrics. While we can perhaps introduce a mathematical model in an to attempt to quantify ‘effortless mastery’, it would merely be an approximation pointing to something far greater and intrinsically fundamental.

I’d like to think of sprezzatura as an all-encompassing field of transdisciplinary possibilities: the Sprezzatura Field (SF). A field of ethereal poetic forms and integrative relational structures, in a state of perpetual flux, moving and morphing with no aim or intended goal. Like a transparent superfluid with zero viscosity, beautifully ebbing and flowing in a frictionless medium to the iridescent tune of a symphony of an infinite spectrum of colours. This exquisite field of possibilities cannot be purchased or acquired in any way. Claiming it as property implies stagnation which is exactly what this field is not.

One can only recognize its presence in order to perhaps gain a glimpse of grazia at its core. It is entering a state of flow. Hungarian psychologist, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi illustrates this, where the individual by being fully immersed with the activity at hand, loses the feeling of self-consciousness, merging the realm of action with the realm of awareness. Atemporality reveals itself and the now-moment is all there is. This single-minded immersion literally interlocks the person into the interstices of a matrix of vast possibilities, effortlessly harnessing what is required moment by moment. The human body with its full sensorial range becomes a vehicle for awe, inspiration and creativity to spontaneously flourish. It is sprezzatura realizing itself.

The animal kingdom has sprezzatura written in its very biological fabric. Animals’ naturalness is innate. When was the last time you saw a tiger trip because it placed its paw incorrectly onto the ground while hunting for prey? Or a bird crash land because it forgot to assess the conditions of the terrain below? The assessing, adjusting of the feet, knowing how many flaps of the wings are needed to glide down with pure grace and elegance are all done without really doing anything. It is having sprezzatura without knowing to have sprezzatura - the SF in action. A great example of this is the octopus displaying its brilliant camouflaging capabilities. The seamless interweaving of its body with elements of its environment is as if the octopus enters another realm at will, and with the deactivation of its ‘invisibility cloak’, it exits from that same realm, at will.

Humans indeed also have incredible capacities to display sprezzatura. And unlike animals, we have greater potential for higher stages of evolutionary development. But we find ourselves in a sort of paradoxical situation where we need to work to be natural, as Willa Cather once said: “It takes a great deal of experience to become natural.” The interesting part is that we seem to have infinite degrees of freedom to enter the SF, at depths beyond measure. On the one hand we have the ability to fully interface and harmonize ourselves with our surroundings, realizing the totality and interconnectedness of everything (in other words, entering the SF), and on the other hand, we can utilize a dystopian set of tools and methodologies, wreaking havoc and chaos to one and all.

Although usually the latter case, there has been a surge of socially-conscious SF-centric initiatives developing all over the globe. People are understanding that disciplines such as biomimicry, environmentally-aware technologies and holistic design philosophies are crucial to transitioning our species forward into the next stage of evolutionary possibilities. It’s understanding that riding the wave of natural unfoldment in harmony with what is can be the hardest thing to recognize, but once you’re in that domain, there’s no looking back.

Franz Kafka referred to it as life’s splendour: “Life’s splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.“

It’s waiting to be summoned.