I haven’t read Eat Pray Love, and probably won’t. I only heard about it this week because of the Julia Roberts movie. I usually stay away from the spiritual-journey-memoir genre. I suspect that a lot of them are actually fiction. I haven’t had much luck with spiritual fiction either. I remember being very disappointed with The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. I thought it was mostly about gossip. Very little spirituality. Both movies, the original 1946 version with Tyrone Power and Bill Murray’s remake, sucked, too.
I don’t mean to cast any aspersions on Eat Pray Love or its author, Ms. Gilbert. I am sure she is a fine writer, a nice person, and that every word in her book is true. Checking out her Wikipedia page, I see that one of her articles, “The Ghost”, a profile of Hank Williams III published by GQ in 2000, was included in Best American Magazine Writing 2001. Now that, I wouldn’t mind reading. What I would really like to read, though, would be an article by a psychologist on the Williams family. If there was ever some people deserving of in-depth psycho-analytical study it’s the Hank Williams brood. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hank I, II, and III. Let’s just say the word haunted does come to mind.
What I wonder about, in relation to Ms. Gilbert’s book, is why Eat Pray Love? Why is love always the be-all, the end-all, the summit, the apex, the final solution? Why is love last? Is it supposed to be better than the other two? Why couldn’t it have been Love Eat Pray or Eat Love Pray or better yet Pray Love Eat. I have a suspicion that a lot of people would rather eat than either pray or make love.
Lest you think I’m very cynical, let me tell you that I’m an idealist, a hopeless romantic. I believe in love, the romantic kind. All my heroes have been romantics at heart. I love romantic movies. I love to fall in love with the leading lady. I love movies that make me cry. So, if a book like Eat Pray Love were a fictional romance/spiritual journey, that would be one thing. But it’s supposed to be a real life account and in real life, love doesn’t always triumph and you don’t always live happily ever after. I know, tell you something you don’t already know.
Of course, this is Ms. Gilbert’s story, and her life, and that must be the way it played out. I thought that I might be prejudging her; after all, I haven’t read the book. So I looked up the synopsis on her Wikipedia page to see just exactly what love is in Eat Pray Love, and it says, “She ended the year in Bali, Indonesia, looking for “balance” of the two and found love (Love); in the form of a dashing Brazilian factory owner.” So I was right. True love wins in the end. Not only that, but I swear I remember a Love Boat episode just like this. The dashing Brazilian factory owner was played by Fernando Lamas (or was it Alejandro Rey?).
In Buddhism, romantic love is called pema (Pali). It’s considered a form of craving, along with kama (sensual pleasure), chanda (desire), kamachanda (desire for sexual pleasure), raga (lust), even companionship (samsagga) and fondness (sineha).
Now this may make you stop and ponder. It’s all bad? We can’t feel, have friends, have sex? There’s only Eat and Pray? No love? Wait, eating is bad also, so it’s just pray? Krishnamurti wondered about the same thing, only he put the questions differently:
Why is it that whatever we touch we turn into a problem? We have made love a problem, we have made relationship, living, a problem, and we have made sex a problem. Why? Why is everything we do a problem, a horror? Why are we suffering? Why has sex become a problem? Why do we submit to living with problems; why do we not put an end to them? Why do we not die to our problems instead of carrying them day after day, year after year?
The problem isn’t really with love or desire or sex, the problem is us. It’s how we deal with these things. Our obsession with idealized love and romance is clinging. Looking at love as the ultimate state of being or a highly desirable state of being is looking for something outside of ourselves for satisfaction and happiness. But we know that. And we keep on loving.
Love makes us feel good. And why shouldn’t we feel good? We are not here to suffer life but to enjoy it. When we do suffer then we need to examine what it is inside us that’s suffering. It’s not love. Love doesn’t make us suffer.
Anyway, I still wonder about the title of the book. Apparently Gilbert used an advance she received on a book she planned to write to pay for her trip in “Search for Everything,” as her subtitle reads. So maybe she knew all along it would be Eat Pray Love.