About ten years ago, I read a book that I think about more than any other I’ve read.
It was The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera–a popular book to read in your college years.
Oddly enough, I’ve only read it once. It’s not the kind of book you can simply breeze through. (Also–there is a movie made from the book; I have not seen it and have no idea if it’s good.)
Now, a more-knowledgable person on Kundera and his works could write a more intelligent analysis, but this is why this book speaks to me:
A heavy life is one with responsibilities and serious, important things that weigh us down. These weights make us feel suffocated and we yearn to be free of them.
A light life is free of commitments and is carefree and fun, like floating in the air. At first, this sounds lovely. But to float through life without any weight–anything meaningful weighing us down–is unbearable. We reach out for something to cling to, to weigh us down and bring us back to earth where we can feel grounded. Purposeful.
There is no solution: when we feel weighed down, we yearn to be free. When we are light, we yearn for meaning and weight to give us purpose.
I think this is how I live my life. I hated worked in an office, so I quit and wanted to make a living working for myself. I was free of the weight of being in an office, having a boss, sitting in an awful cubicle–all those things that made me feel stifled and controlled.
Now I am lighter, but I have flashes of fear–I’m not being productive enough. What the hell am I doing every day? What is the goal I am reaching for? What’s the point? The lightness is unbearable and terrifying, like floating through space; I simultaneously crave weight and fear it.
Why can’t I just be content! (There’s no question mark there, because it’s a rhetorical question.)
Have you read this book? How did it make you feel? Which books have affected you deeply?
I read this book a long time ago as well, and I didn’t really get it at the time. But I absolutely get your post and you helped make the book make sense for me.
I feel the same way. I work for myself, and with the freedom of self-direction comes an untethering from strict structure and enforced goals that sometimes really do help make me feel like I got something done. I try to get around this by finding collaborators for projects. I find the accountability and back and forth a very useful “weight.”
By the way, I seem to recall much of this book takes place in Prague, where I now live. Makes me think I should pick it up again. Or create a residential window cleaning business.
Haha, Thanks David! I do recall a lot of stuff about sex and relationships in the book, but I don’t remember those parts any more. I faintly remember the window cleaning, now that you mention it!
There does need to be the right amount of weight. I am part of a mastermind group and that is a good weight of accountability for me. Having collaborators would do that as well. Maybe I should try that! Thanks for your comment!