The Lightness of Life is our Chance

Some will be familiar with Milan Kundera’s book, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. It’s a great novel, an international bestseller. The author made me think.

Our existence on earth is limited in time. We can imagine our life on a timeline, with a clear starting point, our birth, and a clear endpoint, our death. Everything in between is our life. It’s up to us to fill it and that’s what we dedicate ourselves to 24/7, each in our own way, a real full-time job.

If we live our lives like this, day after day, it’s like a movie. We do what is asked of us, fulfill our duties, go to work, and get angry about other people who are inadequate in our eyes. We eat, drink, and go to sleep. Our life is our cosmos. Our little world, that’s all we have, it’s all we exist in. We are engaged in the Film of our lives and of course, everything in it is of incredible value and of enormous importance to us.

There are a variety of things in our lives that we take terribly seriously, such as our careers, our family, our homes, our partners, or our planned dinners and get-togethers. Life offers us a considerable number of small, daily conflicts, whether within ourselves or outside our little bubble. We take ourselves and our lives so terribly seriously. There is always a certain heaviness hovering over it. The heaviness of our being.

But there are days when I pause- like yesterday.

My mind wanders, but not to the memories of our last vacation or the dog food that I forgot to order. No, it wanders much further, much higher, until my thoughts are somewhere high up, where I can’t really grasp them anymore. I look at the timeline of my life. When I glance through the shining windows of the neighboring house at dusk, I imagine the timeline of the lives of the people with whom I live next door to each other.

They all have this unique heaviness of being in their minds. From our natural egocentric point of view, we can do nothing but let this heaviness hover over us. In this context, and here I agree with author Milan Kundera, heaviness is actually a word that we associate with something negative.

Heavy is bad, light is good. Heavy body weight is stupid, hard work is idiotic, hard situations are ridiculous, and hard math problems are absurd. We like the lighter equivalents much better.

And then my thoughts are somewhere very far away, smart people would say they are on a meta-level, but since we are not in the movies and I don’t really like The Matrix (yep there I said it) then at some point it becomes apparent that this heaviness was artificially created by my own egocentric thinking.

Let’s face it, the lifetime we will spend here on this beautiful earth is so ridiculously short in relation to other time periods on our planet. When we talk about 80 or 90 years, that’s the biggest idea of the time we have, everything else almost exceeds our dimension of life.

For us, everything that happens in our lives and everything we do is of course of enormous importance, of enormous gravity. But the reality is actually different. Our lives are unbearably easy. Life is indeed short!

In 2000 years, no one will be interested in what I have done in my life, or how I have spent it.

In all likelihood, nobody will remember me in 200, 100, 50, or even 20 years after the end of my timeline. Our life happens only once and for a very short time, compared to the endlessness of the universe (or if you believe, the endlessness in places like heaven and hell).

The heaviness that we impose on this short period of time exists only in our heads. Were the last four years of my life a bit hard? Yes, but there were great moments as well, so why do I concentrate on the heaviness I felt?

There are indeed moments in my everyday life when, even before Kundera’s novel captivated me, I think about it. Instead of enjoying this newfound realization that heaviness is actually just self-manufactured, it gives me a stomach ache. The question then arises, why? What’s the point of all this if our existence is actually so meaningless? Is it just a game whose award ceremony nobody watches afterward? The unbearable lightness of being then sets in.

But it is precisely in this unbearable lightness of being that our great opportunity lies. The chance to turn this life into a friendly match, in which we try the wildest tricks, and put all our eggs in one basket because here even failure and losing are insignificant.

The lightness of life is our chance. Our chance to be crazy, to be different, to follow our confused thoughts, to be ourselves, and to celebrate life. To be different -because why not?

We have to chase our dreams in this short timeline we have and not settle for anything less than what makes our hearts leap. We need to enjoy, laugh, and, above all, love because only then the unbearable lightness of being is no longer on our shoulders, nor is the crushing heaviness of being on our shoulders.

Without the heaviness on our shoulders, we are left with only the pleasant lightness of being. A joyful easy feeling!

“The source of fear lies in the future, and he who is liberated from the future has nothing to fear.” — Milan Kundera

I am still a work in progress, perhaps always will be…but I think I start to get it.

I am up to me!

Heavyness or lightness? My choice.

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25 thoughts on “The Lightness of Life is our Chance

  1. That’s an interesting take on Kundera’s book. I always understood that this “lightness” is our curse. That our lives are a draft that we can not do over. We make decisions that we can not undo, we have to live with choices we made and stay on that path that is a result of something we did long time ago. All other options at that point have been closed, and now we live the life within these old choices. We can not go back, choose another path and compare, and then make a decision which one we want. And that’s why that “lightness”is unbearable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the beauty about art and writing. We take what we need and while we all look at the same, we see it so differently.
      For me, in the book, each character’s approach to life is influenced by their mindset. While some embrace lightness, others see themselves as shackled by heaviness. Kundera uses each of the main characters to explore the contrast between the two approaches.

      I do believe that the lightness of being is our choice.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read this book years ago after a niece bought it for my birthday with a strong imperative that I MUST read it. It made an impression, but after reading your post I feel like I need to read it again. I’m in a very different stage of my life. I concur that life is very short, and as I age it feels even shorter. I find myself more and more reflective as I attempt to tune in to what I see as important, and that is usually the smallest things. I feel like I’m taking snapshots in my mind and deciding which ones to keep and which to discard. I took my granddaughter today to buy her first pair of Birkenstock’s, an early birthday present, and it was so important to me. It occurred to me that there are so many things about me she won’t remember, but she will remember buying the shoes.

    This is a beautifully shared essay, Bridget. You write from the heart, and you convey your thoughts and impressions perfectly.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You are a great grandma. I love Birkenstock’s (my second favorite shoe after Dansko clogs) and you are correct, she will never forget the shoes.
      Aging changes the way we look at things. I like the ‘snapshot’ theory. So much just isn’t important anymore.

      Like

  3. A little lightness goes a long, long way, and we should all strive to keep the heaviness at bay and encourage others to do likewise. No wonder that so many people have mental health concerns nowadays with all the pressures, from birth, to do better, reach further, be prettier, more refined, wealthier, more socially accepted and so on, ad infinitum. What happened to just being ourselves, doing our best, and helping others. We cannot solve all of our own problems, never mind taking on those of others, without mutual support, a bit of luck, and a little levity. At about the age of 17 I wrote: “I am mad, but I am glad, I am not sad, I’m happy.” It mostly worked for me, so be a little mad and a lot happy!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. On this very cold, dark and damp day, while my mind whirls with thoughts I am trying to keep at bay – and really trying hard not to worry about things I have no control of – your post has arrived like a tonic. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. How true. We are the ones who bring drama to our lives…both good and bad. We do need top do our best to live a lighter life and make the best of our time on earth. Spending time worrying about things we can not change serves no real purpose. Happy weekend. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I read Kundera a few years ago while going through a painful period in my life. His words comforted me back then, just like this blog post now. We all know life is short, and why we don’t need to be so serious about working, but it’s always great to be reminded of it. So I’m glad I came across your blog post today and got my daily dose of gratitude and encouragement 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  7. So much to unpack here. I have many thoughts but I have to catch an airplane so I will come back to this later… 😉

    I put the book on hold with my library app and I look forward to reading it, but your blog post already gives me much fodder to contemplate and potentially write about. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  8. “We need to enjoy, laugh, and, above all, love because only then the unbearable lightness of being is no longer on our shoulders, nor is the crushing heaviness of being on our shoulders.” Gosh, I love this observation. *nodding*

    I’m still a work in progress, perhaps always will be…but I think I start to get it, TOO.
    How I measure is up to me!

    Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness Of Being— I have that book. Got it moons and moons ago. This has encouraged me to reread that lovely book. Thanks sooo much. Lovely post.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I put in Milan Kundera’s book on my pile of books to reread as well. I am sure there are parts I don’t remember anymore, it has been such a long time.

      Thank you, Selma for reading and commenting. Your thoughts are always appreciated.

      Like

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