The Unbearable

New York Times suggests 11 ways to be a better person in 2017. Its first suggestion is to live like Bill. Bill Cunningham was an American fashion photographer. He also wandered around on his bicycle and took some immortal photos. Times asks us to live by his words: “Once people own you, they can tell what you to do. So don’t let ’em.”
But is it ok? Don’t we wish to be owned? Don’t we wish to have a sister or a friend who ask us to be careful while drive? or ask us to tidy up the room or not to be out in the night too long? What sort of life you have when you don’t belong to anyone? What is preferable, your total independence or being owned by someone?
Being owned means a heaviness. You are not a feather in the air. You may be a kite in the wind but someone is there down holding the string. Being independent means a lightness, you are a free bird, no strings attached. You are not answerable to anyone, you don’t send your map location to anyone, neither there’s someone to locate you. What is preferable, heaviness or lightness?
This is the problem with which Czech novelist Milan Kundera opens his greatest novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It is a shame that Kundera has not yet received a Nobel prize. The Unbearable lightness is enough to be worthy of Nobel.
Kundera examines the position of Greek philosopher Parmenides who lived in the sixth century before Christ. He saw the world divided into pairs of opposites: light/darkness, fineness/coarseness, warmth/cold, being / non-being. Which one is positive? Parmenides responded: lightness is positive and weight is negative. Milan kundera asks, “but is heaviness truly deplorable and lightness splendid?” It is true that heaviness crushes us and pins us to the ground. Kundera reminds us that in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by man’s body so, “the heaviest of the burden is also simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfilment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives comes to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.” The absolute absence of burdens makes us light. We can leave earth behind and its gravitational pull and be winged. Kundera says that with this lightness we become only half real. These movements are free as they are insignificant.
Responsibility is something that makes lives burdensome. The moment you take up the responsibility, you feel a burden on your shoulder. You can’t but worry about that person, you are compelled to sacrifice everything for him or her. You toil and die because you are responsible. What is bearable?
Kundera’s answer is that burden is bearable and lightness is unbearable, the unbearable lightness of being. However burdensome, we all wish to belong and belonged. Like a character in Sartre’s drama, we all long, “if I were indispensable to someone!” Everybody is in search of such an indispensable person. Your meaning of life depends on that person. Your life is worth living because of that person. Happiness means I’m together with someone.
But as you are with that person, you feel the agonising aspect of love which pulls and repels at the same time, don’t you also run away from her or him? There is that secret impossibility of love which makes no one indispensable You know that even the greatest love will become a skeleton of feeble memory as time goes by. You feel that push and pull of love. You may be like Musil’s Ulrich who says, “I fled thousand miles away from the woman I loved, and once I felt safe from any possibility of really embracing her, I howled for her like a dog at the moon.” Perhaps, love flourishes not in the presence of the lover but in the absence.
David Foster Wallace looks at the issue from the another perspective. He says, “you don’t have to think very hard to realise that our dread of both relationships and loneliness has to do with angst about death, the recognition that I’m going to die, and die very much alone, and the rest of the world is going to go merrily on without me.” Death is the force that pushes us to love because tomorrow I may not be here to love. I should love today, what if there is no tomorrow? Death is the force that pulls us away from love because tomorrow I will die. I can’t be forever with the person I love. He or she will live on merrily without me. I must learn to be lonely to die alone.
It is better to have a married life and live with its bearable burden. Still, there are people who live a life of unbearable lightness. A monk must live this hard life of lightness. Of course, this life has no particular meaning. Meaning is not everything, we can also do some experiment with life. I prefer to observe life than to live because thousands are living their life. Why can’t I be an observer of passing clouds? Perhaps, one who swims in the sea doesn’t know what is sea, but one who gazes for hours from the shore may know what is the sea. He grabs a meeting point where he dissolves his soul into it. He must train himself in solitude and loneliness. But should not let loneliness to eat away his soul. Your heart must be as vast as the sea, then nothing can destroy you. You are here to live alone even if it’s not good for man to live alone.