30 August 2013

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Muss es sein? Es muss sein! Es muss sein! - Beethoven’s The Difficult Resolution.
Must it be? It must be! It must be!
No book, I have ever read which has been sheer poetry from start to end - slowly slowly - melting in your mouth, mystifying your eyes, warming your ears and moistening your throat. There were times when I felt the narrator opening the doors, guiding my eyes to the direction of the mallow light, whispering in my ear the realities and facts of life, for myself to see differently the world as I used to see.
The author lives in the mind of his characters and drives them to think and act and then introspect why they did what they did in such a lucid manner. He is the narrator, the actor, the character, the dreamer, the soul and the conscious. His books are not stories or events – it is a figment of his imagination and his thoughts put together as a poem for us to sing not read. Most authors show the appearance of their characters as how they would seem to a second person. He had big eyes, pink lips, brown curly hair, etc etc. But what was unique about Milan was that he hardly gives out the physical appearance of his characters, apart from their own reflections or assumptions of how they look. Instead he gives you hints and ideas and you imagine a smoky hazy meta shape of a soul which is a figment of Kundera’s imagination, slowly becoming part of your own imagination.
All his characters attach and detach from each other, intertwining and mixing into one pattern as if they could be each other but still each very distinct of the other. They all have different shades and hues and colors but they all still look different and varied. They have similarities and yet they are very different. They could very well be one but then they could be very well be another. You will find that Kundera in his renderings tries to provide reasons for things as they are or as they could be. But most of the characters do things without reasons and then he goes deep dive inside them to dig out the inherent reasons for their behaviour and actions. Tomaz’s ways of moving from one women to another, Tereza’s relationship with her mother, Sabina’s fear of community marches, Franz’s respect for his mother and Tomaz’s son’s vision of Kingdom of God. They all have inherent needs and desires that derive their actions, behaviours and lives. They all are running form their fears but they find their fears wherever they reach. Probably that is what he means when he says ‘The Unbearable lightness of being’. The idiom is so deep that if I dive in to figure it, I fear I will never emerge and it would be a fruitless activity. But then it’s great to know that this idiom exists and there is someone who could think about it, phrase it, and then write about it. Anybody who can do it is no less than one of the great philosophers of the world and he demands our respect and attention because he can say what we can’t even think. After all this is what philosophy and philosophers is all about.
No words of mine can do any justice to this book. But all I can say is we all MUST and MUST read this book. Physical concepts of Lightness and Weight merge with spiritual concepts of Soul and Body and explained with the theory of ‘Words Misunderstood’ leading you ‘The Grand March’ of human suffering only for the ultimate truth of happiness in Karenin’s smile. Confused! The magic of words has never been so misunderstood and never been so illusional for me.

Where fiction ends and truth begins is not something you can figure. But someone has already said ‘The more fictitious it is, the more true it will be’. Each word of the book is a gem.... and I collected so many that not sharing these with you will be painful. So here are the words... one cannot forget...
The important thing is to abide by the Rule of Threes. Either you see a woman three times in quick succession and then never again, or you maintain relations over the years but make sure that the rendezvous are at least three weeks apart.
Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).
She took after her mother, and not only physically. Her entire life was merely a continuation of her mother’s, much as the course of a ball on the billiard table is merely the continuation of the player’s arm movement.
Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect some day to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of Falling? No, Vertigo is something other than the fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves. We might also call vertigo the intoxication of the weak. Aware of his weakness, a man decides to give in rather than stand up to it. He is drunk with weakness, wishes to grow even weaker, wishes to fall down in the middle of the main square in front of everybody, wishes to be down, lower than down.
You are ‘woman’. She could not understand why he accentuated the obvious with the solemnity of a Columbus who has just sighted land. Not until later did she understand that the word ‘woman’, on which he had placed such uncommon emphasis, did not, in his eyes, signify one the two human sexes; it represented a Value. Not every woman was worthy of being called a Woman.
His week is called goodness. He would never give her orders. There are things that can be accomplished only by violence. Physical love is unthinkable without violence.
What if this emptiness was the goal of all her betrayals. The goals we pursue are always veiled. A girl who longs for marriage longs for something she knows nothing about. The boy who hankers after fame has no idea what fame is. The thing that gives our every move its meaning is always totally unknown to us. She was unaware of the goal that lay behind her longing to betray. The unbearable lightness of being – was that the goal.
The most naive of questions are truly serious, the ones that even a child can formulate. They are the questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is the questions with no answers that set the limits of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.
He dropped a few provocative phrases that stood out in the general conversation like a false line in a drawing, a line that can be neither continued or erased.
What is unique about the ‘I’ hides itself exactly in what is unimaginable about a person. All we are able to imagine is what makes everyone like everyone else, what people have in common. The individual ‘I’ is what differs from the common stock, that is, what cannot be guessed or calculated, what must be unveiled, uncovered, conquered.
Using numbers, we might say that there is one-millionth part dissimilarity to nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine millionth parts similarity. He was obsessed by the desire to discover and appropriate that one-millionth part that makes a woman dissimilar to others of her sex. Sexuality seems still to be a strongbox hiding the mystery of a woman’s ‘I’. So it was a desire not for pleasure (the pleasure came as an extra, a bonus) but for possession of the world (slitting open the outstretched body of the world with his scalpel) that sent him in pursuit of women.
Men who pursue a multitude of women fit neatly into two categories. Some seek their own subjective and unchanging dream of a woman in all women. Others are prompted by a desire to possess the endless variety of the objective female world. The obsession of the former is lyrical; what they seek in women is themselves, their ideal, and since an ideal is by the definition something that can never be found, they are disappointed again and again. The disappointment that propels them from women to woman gives the inconstancy of a kind of romantic excuse, so that many sentimental women are touched by their unbridled philandering. The obsession of the latter is epic, and women see nothing the least bit touching in i:, the man projects no subjective ideal on women, and since everything interests him, nothing can disappoint him.
He realised that someone had sent her downstream in a bulrush basket. I have said before that metaphors are dangerous. Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.
‘Einma; ist keinmal’. What happens once might as well not have happened at all. The history will not be repeated, it is a sketch from the pen of mankind’s fateful inexperience. History is as light as individual human life, unbearably light, light as a feather, as dust swirling into the air, as whatever will no longer exist tomorrow.
People were hermaphrodites until God split them in two, and now all the halves wander the world over seeking one another. Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost. (Myth from  Plato’s Symposium). The trouble is, man does not find the other part of himself.
The very beginning of Genesis tells us that God created man in order to give dominion over fish and fowl and all creatures. Of course Genesis was written by a man, not a horse. There is no certainty that God actually did grant man dominion over other creatures. What seems more likely, in fact, is that man invented God to sanctify the dominion that he had usurped for himself over the cow and horse. The reason we take that right for granted is that we stand at the top of the hierarchy. But let a third party enter the game – a visitor from another planet and all at once taking Genesis for granted becomes problematical. Man is as much a parasite on the cow as the tapeworm is on man: We have sucked their udders like leeches. ‘Man the cow parasite’ is probably how non-man defines man in his zoology books.
Now we may treat this definition as a joke and dismiss it with a condescending laugh. Even though Genesis says that God gave man dominion over all animals, we can construe it to mean that He merely entrusted them to man’s care. Man was not the planet’s master, merely its administrator. Descartes took a decisive step forward; he made man master and proprietor, whereas the beast dpes not have a soul. Beast is merely an automaton, an animated machine. When an animal laments, it is not a lament’ it is merely the rasp of a poorly functioning mechanism. When a wagon wheel grates, the wagon is not in pain, it simply needs oiling.
If Karenin had been a person instead of a dog. He would surely have long since said to her, ‘Look I ‘m sick and tired of carrying that roll in my mouth every day. Can’t you come up with something different?’ And therein lies the whole of man’s plight. Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. This is why man cannot be happy: Happiness is the longing for repetition.
Horror is a shock, a time of utter blindness. Horror lacks every hint of beauty. All we can see is the piercing light of an unknown event awaiting us. Sadness, on the other hand, assumes we are in the know. The light of horror thus lost its harshness, and the world was bathed in a gentle, bluish light that actually beautified it.
Sometimes you make up your mind about something without knowing why, and your decision persists by the power of inertia. Every year it gets harder to change.


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