I usually steer clear of anything that comes with a ‘bestseller’ tag. The reason I picked up ‘Eat Pray Love’ was this TED talk by its author Elizabeth Gilbert. (http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius) She talked about the concept of creative genius in a heart-warming mix of vulnerability and sensibility, spirituality and logic. However, the book fails to reach the same level of engagement.
Eat Pray Love chronicles and celebrates Liz’s 1-year long self-exploration journey through three countries as she walks out of an ailing marriage. She explores pleasure in Italy, spirituality in India and balance in Bali. It spells ‘mid-life crisis’ in short. I guess this book is such a hit because this acting-out of a mid-life crisis thrills many of us who are in a perpetual-life-crisis mode today: of constantly second-guessing our choices (understandable because of access to many more choices than ever before), and wondering at what-ifs. As one follows Liz to see if the grass is indeed greener on the other side, she seems to say, “Yes, it is!” as she finds true bliss through her journey. I think this needs to be interpreted with care. Does she find happiness because of over-dosing on Pasta without a care for her health, meditating without a care for the real world, or making love without a care for future togetherness? That’s a simplistic interpretation, for which her writing is much to blame. It led some to berate the book for promoting consumeristic tendencies as the basis for happiness.
I believe her bliss had to do with freeing herself of unfulfilled desires. Unfulfilled desires have a way of poisoning one’s psyche and in fact every living moment- You may be holidaying in a beautiful location now, yet the mind keeps playing, “If only I were/had (fill in the blanks).. I would have been so happy sitting here today.” I’m reminded of a Jim Carrey (!) quote, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
When one has had a chance to indulge, they may notice the happiness coming not from the thing that they had desired, but from the feeling of release and liberation from the constant wishing and wanting. A reflective individual will then likely meet a new desire and say, “I know you. And I know you are not the answer. If I fulfill you, great. If not, I know I’m not losing much.” That’s peace seeping in already.
That’s the single message I took from this book, and I had to search for it in my own head.
Liz lost much ground by initally talking only of her emotional state without the situational details, and thereafter focusing entirely on external events rather than her internal transformation. It is indeed a very difficult balance to strike. But when this balance is off, a writer can travel halfway across the world, activate all their chakras through Yoga (I’ll take her word for it), help a poor foreigner build a home, come back a changed person… and still have someone like me sitting on their couch going, “Nah, I’m not feeling it”!