Before I begin, let me add a disclaimer. Generally I do not follow fads, preferring very much to support the underdogs hence my resistance to own any Apple products. I am not writing a review of Eat Pray Love because it is now in the cinema near you and suddenly the talk of the town.
Granted it did come to my notice only now because of all the hype associated with the book and movie. Still how can I possibly resist a book about a woman’s independent travel around the world on her quest to discover herself and the meaning of life?
I won’t be writing a review of the book per se although Elizabeth Gilbert is really engaging and the reason I think readers are hooked on her books is the personable tone that she uses which provides incredible insight to how a person processes information and experience. What I want to write about rather are my thoughts about some issues that Elizabeth raised.
The 9th bead
In this chapter, Elizabeth explores the power of petitioning to God. Initially she resisted the idea of asking God to intervene in her divorce procedure which had somehow dragged for 1.5 years and threatened her plans to move on with life. Her rationale is that when we ask God to remove obstacles in our lives, it suggests a weakness in our faith. That hardships we experience are there for the reason of making us stronger.
Her friend however disagreed and believes that God indeed is very very concerned about the well-being of every single human being and that it doesn’t hurt to let God know how we feel and present our case before Him for His consideration.
So Elizabeth went on to write a petition and embark on a imaginary yet fervent process of collecting signatures from people who would sign it, dead or alive, friend or stranger. The conclusion is that within a few hours of this petitioning, the divorce process was completed.
At this point, I had to pause and ponder on the amazing miracles that take place in each and every individual’s life. I am a Christian and I believe with every molecule of my heart that God exists and He loves and cares for me. Even though I don’t always understand the things that happen in my life, it has never occurred to me that it would be for the worse and not the better in the larger scheme of things.
It is true that not all our prayers will be answered and not every hardship will be taken away, but this does not mean that God is not listening. At the very least, He will sustain us day by day with strength to keep on going till we see the light at the end of the tunnel. I should know, I have been there before.
The 21st bead
Elizabeth is off to Rome in pursuit of pleasure. I am so envious that she is able to do what I can only dream about and more importantly to be able to come away with such a comprehension of their culture which I was barely able to gleam during my short 3 days in the city.
So how does one find pleasure? Interestingly, according to Elizabeth, pleasure is not quite the same as entertainment. When we busy ourselves with entertainment, we try to fill our time with activities so that we don’t feel bored. We work hard, we play harder so it seems so our lives are in a constant state of frenzy.
The Romans however define pleasure in the ‘beauty of doing nothing’, a cherished ideal, the goal of all their hard work. Work all your lives just so that you can enjoy doing nothing? This is a concept that is very hard for me to grasp and I think requires a paradigm shift in order to fully appreciate. We have been conditioned to maximise our time to complete as many to-dos as possible in each 24-hour day in the spirit of efficiency.
For example, when I am not stressing out at my full time day job, I am fretting about as a mother of three. When I finally find time for myself, I am here at my blog. The only time of the day when I do nothing, is when I sleep. But that in itself, is doing something scientifically.
So how can we find pleasure in our lives? Perhaps it can be found less in doing and more in becoming. Granted I don’t have all the answers myself but I know now for sure that busyness is an enemy to the pursuit of real pleasure.
The 36th bead
In closing her four months in Italy, Elizabeth expounds on her trip to Sicily which according to Goethe, one cannot get a clear idea of what Italy is without visiting Sicily. An interesting observation which I share is that even though the Italians have produced the greatest artistic, political and scientific minds of the ages, they have never become a major world power.
Without going into the long of it, according to the book, it seems that a sad history of corruption and exploitation has led the Italians to conclude that nobody and nothing in this world can be trusted other than that which can be experienced with your own senses.
So while the Italians can condone incompetent generals, politicians, educators and industry leaders, they will not tolerate incompetent artistes because in a world of disorder, disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted so they devote themselves to the creation and enjoyment of beauty.
Likewise we owe ourselves the duty to find something beautiful within life amidst all the imperfections of the world and our lives. However we need to be aware that our society has a tendency to monetise beauty, that which can fetch the largest revenue is more beautiful than that which cannot. We must not be fooled into thinking that our personal endeavour to create and enjoy beauty must be accompanied by some sort of monetary reward.
Many of the beautiful things in life do not have a price tag associated with it such as watching your children develop from tiny helpless infants to sharp and keen observants of nature. Catching the sunrise in the chill of dawn with a loved one next to you. Or sacrificing an hour of sleep to blog away into the twilight, composing your thoughts into a prose of such beauty that is only recognisable to yourself.