Sunday, August 19, 2007

Eat Pray Love: Casseroles and Virgina Woolf

Rarely when a friend says "I read this book and thought of you" does she actually mail it, or I actually read it and have it resonate so much.

I thank Stacy for finding that padded envelope in the wilds of Vermont and mailing Eat Pray Love.

"Here's another example of the difference in our worldviews. A family in my sister's neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, 'Dear God, that family needs grace.' She replied firmly, 'That family needs casseroles,' and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace."

(pp 90,91)

"To create a family with a spouse is one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in American (or any) society. ... Who are you? No problem -- you're the person who created all this. ...

But what if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle of family and continuity? ... You'll need to find another purpose, another measure by which to judge whether or not you have been a successful human being. I love children, but what if I don't have any? What kind of person does that make me?

Virginia Woolf wrote, 'Across the broad continent of a woman's life falls the shadow of a sword.' On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where 'all is correct.' But on the other side of that sword, if you're crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, 'all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course.' Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow of that sword may bring a far more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet it will also be more perilous. ...

A lot of writers have families. Toni Morrison, just to name an example, didn't let the raising of her son stop her from winning a little trinket we call the Nobel Prize. But Toni Morrison made her own path, and I must make mine. The Bhagavad Gita -- that ancient Indian Yogic text -- says that it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection. So now I have started living my own life. Imperfect and clumsy as it may look, it is resembling me now, thoroughly." (pp 94,95)

4 comments:

sarah burgess said...

Don't know if you remember me- I'm a friend of Jen White (we ran into each other at the Anne Lamott reading at UCLA a few years back). Eat, Pray, Love was such a good book. I read it when I was in the hospital after having my second child. I found myself somehow jealous of the author- her freedom to rediscover herself, I guess. My husband and children are a blessing, but I also have immense admiration for people who are able to define themselves outside of society's normative definition of happiness.

jen white said...

I am really enjoying this book as well. I haven't quite caught up to you yet :) but I am looking forward to it.

Shannon said...

You ever come across someone's blog and read something they wrote about and think - wow... it'd be cool to meet that person, she sounds a lot like me. I thought that after reading some of your posts, I found this one on Eat Pray Love first. I'm reading that book now and was particularly interested in the line that Virginia Wolfe said about women who don't follow tradition... either by chance or some other force, I'm that woman too. Anyway... I'm glad there's someone else out there that seems a little bit like me. What was your favorite part about that book?

oneworldonelove2 said...

Liz Gilbert-the author of "Eat Pray Love" is on TIME 100 list(congratulations!) As a woman who applauds with the author and Virgina Wolf, I believe the core success of the book lies in Ms. Wolf's theory on "two sides of a sword." As a woman with two adolecent children chooses ununconventional route, the road is perilous than ever, mixed with guilt...But when talking about interesting existence, I am reaching horizon...