Fjaka—It Means The Relaxed Life

Fjaka is a Dalmatian slang term that means, at it most basic—a relaxed state of doing nothing.

Not only is fjaka native to the Dalmatian people, but it also helps define the character of the entire region. It is a concept that defies definition even from the natives.

While defining fjaka give one a single dimension of the Dalmatian, it is a still a good primer on a culture that has been developing since ancient times.

Somewhere In The Middle Of Time

If every mood had a season, the fjaka, as a disposition of body and soul, could easily belong to summer.

The oppressive heat—the partition of mind and body under the blistering sun, when all ambition evaporates into general dissolution—can easily project the concept of fjaka.

That is not to say other seasons aren’t subject to fjaka; it’s just that summer is the high season for this Adriatic “carefree idleness.”

It has been described as a “psychophysical state of mind when there is an aspiration for nothing and to do nothing.”

When this Croatian oasis gets a blast of hot wind from the south, the humidity is subjugative, pressing the mind-body connection into narrower and smaller spaces.

Fjaka can be such a state of bliss and timeless surrender that a southern “fjakuni,” even when disturbed from their torpor, rarely reacts.

The claustrophobic nature of the weather transforms the Dalmatian into something more akin to an essence—immeasurable by time.

Defining The Inscrutable

Fjaka is, and it is not. A concoction of malingering inertia, carefree downtime devoid of ambition, leisure, listlessness, phlegmatism; it may also be thought to be a cessation of normal life activities. However, it truly defies explanation or definition. It is all of these things and none of them at the same time.

You have to feel it—to know it.

Despite its self-anesthetizing impression, it is, at the same time, untameable, a wildly sedate mode of existence outside of oneself and yet, inexplicably, it is a complete oneness with that self. It is what Jakša Fiamengo calls “a special kind of general immobility, drowsiness and numbness, weariness and indifference towards all important and ancillary needs, a lethargic stupor and general passivity on the journey to overall nothingness.”

Time is lost and yets it’s very essence is impalpable, while it is languid, it is also light – emancipating, uplifting, venerable. A sweet state half-way between nowhere and everywhere, somehow always in the middle.

Fjaka is beyond reason, the empirical senses aloft. It lacks borders which means it is ungovernable by the seasons.

The fjakuni is an eccentric curiosity, a bizarre marvel, an oddity of the tellurian experience, a human tchotchke.

And yet, they are endearing, affable and still aloof, swaddled in their oblivion, lucid in their dreams.

An Ideology Without Proclivity

One can argue that fjaka is something witnessed throughout nature—conspicuous in the beasts of the land. The docile bovine munching alfalfa in the meadow. The sprawling lion dozing in the Serengeti. The domestic dog or cat stretching lazily in the midday sun. Their aspirations abating, their spirit diminished and yet they are somehow full of life.

Fjaka can be tantamount to sleeping, often indistinguishable from napping—evoking the metaphysical, a fraternity to the subconscious. An inverted rapid-eye-movement.

Combative people tend to stick out, the fjakuni blends into the picture. Vaguely noticeable, the sweetly numbed ones are mostly left alone, like grapes left out on the vine, ambiguously harnessing the power of the sun, the eternal mysteries of existence locked in with the juices and sugar.

One can walk among the fajkuni all day and yet barely register their presence. They go on with their day unannounced, yet their philosophy of “let me be” sings. It wears in, and it wears out.

Summer ghosts, waft along in their oniric stasis. Life slows—annuls—carries the body like white shirts hanging to dry on the clothesline.

They practice a form of conscious hibernation, shuffling along the limestone streets, an extinguished cigarette hanging from the lips.

One might consider it an amalgamation of other national existential states. The Spanish and their siesta, the Danish and hygge. Vaguely, crudely it is defined by the interloper.

Fjakuni exists in a state of beatitude that asks, casually suggests without movement of lip or vibration of sound, to be merely, elegantly, blissfully left alone to their devices.

The Fjaka of Friars

There is a joke told in Dalmatia by a winemaker.

Two brothers are sitting under the belltower in the center of town. The one brother says, “did you know if you look up, you can see what time it is?” Some time elapses before the other brother replies, “Why to bother talking?”

How better than to conquer time than to live in a felicitous neutral state where time hardly registers and rarely acknowledged?

Other images of the fjaka persist, drawing in the uninitiated and yet leaving their thirst for definition unquenched.

Take the monk in the afternoon, eyelids heavy-laden in his cloister, when invocation and prayer and rogation are just, at the end of the day—too much.

Or take the men of Split, across the Adriatic from Brać, nestled in the shade of Diocletian’s Palace, the sizzling rays of the afternoon sun arrested by century-old white stone pillars.

The peasant, whose tilling the steep rocky soil of Murvica is on hiatus, the turmoil of regular life abated for a yawn that might last all day.

Energy is a relative term here, notions of hustle are foreign, yet life is balanced, ordered, fjaka is medicinal, keeping the disquietude at bay.

Fjaka is a deeprooted purity, a spiritual engagement that isn’t engaged in anything. Ideas float through the mind, they are considered and unconsidered, recognized and still left to drift away by their own free accord. There are no real possessions in this state. It is an instrument for the observed life to persist without really trying.

“Many good ideas must have been initiated in this in-between state, in the bliss of a sleep that is not sleep, a consciousness that is not conscious, a time that is not time.”

If something needs to get done, it will get done, eventually. Ambition by proxy, when circulation of the blood returns to normal function, and the cooled body returns to something resembling awareness.

Withdrawl to engage, take the gift of the sun, the life-giving force commanding the heavens. Take it deep into the earth, into the dim nirvana, like century-old roots. Take a breath and watch it grow.

Other Dalmationisms

Pomalo – “Take it easy, relax.” When walking the streets of coastal Croatia, slightly raise your to greet a passerby and blissfully say, “pomalo.” To Dalmatians, it translates to “easy, relax,” Applicable to most of Croatian life on the coast.

Marenda – Chow Time. Traditionally, before heading out to the fields and vineyards, farmers begin their day at 6:00 am with marenda, which consists of cheese, almonds, dried figs and brandy.

Cvike – Sunglasses, possibly the essential fashion accessory in Dalmatia.

Skuter – Scooters and bike are everywhere on the coast.

Ćakula’ -‘Small Talk.’

Vino – Does This Word Even Need A Translation?

Adapted from The Fjaka, as a Specific State of Mind and Body by Jakša Fiamengo