The Philosophy of Calabrese Contentment

By Renato Rizzuti


When you ask an older generation Calabrese person how they are doing, you are likely to hear the phrase, “Se tira avante.” This expression represents the “philosophy of Calabrese contentment.” Translated literally, it means “I am pulling forward.” The more accurate translation would be, “There is a forward progression in all my affairs.” “All my affairs” would cover: health issues, financial matters, inter-personal relationships and general disposition. Let’s start with the health issues. As long as someone is in good health, they will have the strength to “pull forward” or “tira avante.” As our bodies age, we will notice more aches and pains than the resilient days of our youth. There is no real need to list all your physical complaints to somebody just because they may ask, “How are you?” You should save that for your visit to the doctor. A doctor is paid to listen to your complaints. More importantly, he or she can do something about them. Therefore you should be content with your health situation as long as there is nothing seriously wrong with you. A person who subscribes to the “philosophy of Calabrese contentment” would merely shrug off any minor aliments. The shrugging off part would be included in expanded phrase, “E, se tira avante.” The “e” at the beginning of the phrase is a sort of verbal shrugging of the shoulders which may or may not be accompanied by the actual physical shrugging of the shoulders. This good attitude towards health matters actually promotes good health! There are hundreds of books about financial matters. The simplest mathematical formula can be used to determine what your financial situation is really like. Basically if the amount of money is coming in is greater than the amount of money going out, then you are doing alright. Of course if you want to get rich, the amount of money coming in should be many times the amount of money going out. The “philosophy of Calabrese contentment” when applied to money matters depicts a basic contentment with a comfortable amount of money. Dr. Phil says that if you throw money at a problem, the problem will not necessarily go away. We have all heard the saying, “Money cannot buy happiness.” People who are basically miserable people will always be unhappy no matter how much money they acquire. To use another Calabrese expression these people are “abutte” which means they are too full and yet never satisfied. A variation on this theme is expressed in yet another Calabrese saying, “Ou porcu quannu e abutte, arusule u scivu.” The translation is “When the pig is full, he overturns the trough.” Basic satisfaction can be derived from a nice plate of pasta for dinner. Constant “champagne and caviar” is neither necessary for every day living nor is it healthy. The basics are necessary for our physical and financial survival. Contentment can be achieved by truly appreciating the basics. We should all be thankful for what we do have! When it comes to inter-personal relationships, there are also numerous books that you can read on the subject. Basically, it comes down to having love and respect for the other person in the relationship and getting love and respect in return. As long as this is occurring, you can say that “se tira avante” when it comes to your marriage or other inter-personal relationships. If you truly love and respect your wife, then your behaviour will reflect this. Behaviours like cheating and psychological or physical abuse simply cannot occur if there is a mutual love and respect going on in the marriage. This is a simple yet sure way to avoid complex martial problems. When it comes to other inter-personal relationships a basic mutual respect is necessary for the relationships to run smoothly. Part of growing up and becoming a mature adult is the ability to adjust your behaviour according to the situation or person you are dealing with. An immature brat of a person does not adjust their behaviour at all anytime or for any person. For example, at a family gathering for a special occasion, everybody should be mature enough to be on their best behaviour in order for the occasion to be a warm and joyous time. It amazes me how some evil type people can be so sweet when they are on the job yet are real devils when it comes their behaviour in their inter-personal relationships. In other words, they can adjust their behaviour when they are being paid yet do not have the maturity to adjust their behaviour in their interpersonal relationships. It is best to avoid these people if at all possible. Adherence to a basic mutual respect allows us to say “se tira avante” about our inter-personal relationships. Your general disposition is something that you are responsible for. It is up to you what kind of mood and attitude you are going to express in life. It is simply emotionally and intellectually lazy to allow yourself to become a miserable “victim” in life. You should not let “life” be something that happens to you because no matter what happens in your life you can control your reaction to it. You can change your past by changing your reaction to the event. Sometimes a “bad” past experience is not really “bad” if you closely analyze it. Did you learn something from the experience? Did the experience allow you to grow as a person? Did that experience lead to a very “good” experience because that “bad” experience happened first? That reminds me of the saying, “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade!” A very positive and optimistic attitude towards life is not only good for your psychological health; it actually has been medically proven to have a positive effect on your physical health. Keep your chin up and face life with a sunny disposition! We can see how the “philosophy of Calabrese contentment” is a very good way of looking at life. Best wishes for this New Year and may you be able to say each and every day of the year, “Si tira avante!”