Lessons from the Unbearable Lightness of Being

L'insoutenable l'égèreté de l'être.

I am going to carry this book around with me for the rest of my life. Milan Kundera’s masterpiece truly opened my eyes to a completely new world of literature. This world was no longer about simple narrative, an entertaining story with interesting and quirky characters; this world was about reflection and self-identification.

Authors like him manage to seep under any reader’s skin and comfortably find a place in which to bury his lessons, his ideologies and philosophies.

Literature of this sort is rare, as I have come to find out, but is something to sincerely take to heart.

Isnt that what a great book is after all? A learning experience? One in which the author provides you with a new set of eyes to see the world through; where at the same time you are reading your own meaning into the black and white printed letters on the page.  A new perspective calls for sharing, and that’s exactly what I want to do with what I’ve gathered as the most important insights from the Unbearable Lightness of Being.

It is not up to me to personalize these passages, but merely to make them more seen – more magnified – in order for there to be a greater understanding as to myself as a person, and hopefully yourself whilst you read this.  I even started ranking them, although I think they all deserve to be winners…

1. Compassion:
“The secret strength of its etymology floods the word with another light and gives it broader meaning: to have compassion (co-feeling) means not only to be able to live with the other’s misfortune but also to feel with him any emotion – joy, anxiety, happiness, pain. This kind of compassion (in the sense of soucitMitgefüuhl) therefore signifies the maximal capacity of affective imagination, the art of emotional telepathy. In the hierarchy of sentiments, then, it is supreme.” (p. 19)

2. Weight:
“Since the German word schwer mean both ‘difficult’ and ‘heavy’, Beethoven’s ‘difficult resolution’ may be construed as a ‘heavy’ or ‘weighty resolution’. The weighty resolution is at one with the voice of Fate (‘Es muss sein!’); necessity, weight, and value are three concepts inextricably bound: only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value.” (p. 31)

3. Human lives:
“They are composed like music. Guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurrence into a motif, which then assumes a permanent place in the composition of the individual’s life… without realizing it, the individual composes his life according to the laws of beauty even in times of greatest distress. It is wrong, then, to chide the novel for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences, but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences… for he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.” (pp. 49-50)

4. Questions:
“(… Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate. Only the most naïve of questions are truly serious. They are the questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limits of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.)” (p. 135)

 5. Dreaming:
“… is not merely an act of communication (or coded communication, if you like); it is also an aesthetic activity, a game of the imagination, a game that is a value in itself. Our dreams prove that to imagine – to dream about things that have not happened – is among mankind’s deepest needs. Herein lies the danger.” (p. 55)

6. Characters:
“The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. It is that crossed border (the border beyond which my own ‘I’ ends) which attracts me most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author’s confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become.” (p. 215)

 7. Infinity:
“The darkness was pure, perfect, thoughtless, visionless; that darkness was without end, without borders; that darkness was the infinite we each carry within us. (Yes, if you’re looking for infinity, just close your eyes!).” (p. 91)

Although I could write a post about each quotation, which I might in the future, here is the food for thought for this moment.

What do these passages inspire in you?