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Posts Tagged ‘elizabeth gilbert’

So,… what’s the chicken telling me here?

I’m half way through reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love at the moment. I watched the film (twice) and enjoyed it both times, but even as I watched it, I was wondering to myself to what extent it differed from the book (which I’d not read) – because films always do that, don’t they? They miss a huge chunk of the real story out because it doesn’t fit into the cinematic way of telling things. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a link to You Tube of the author speaking about the writing process and the idea of the personal daemon, or muse, and was at once captivated by her wit and the marvellously easy way she was able to put across some of the very difficult concepts I’ve been wrestling with for years now:

So, after listening to that I no longer had any choice: I simply had to read the book! I found a ridiculously inexpensive Kindle edition on Amazon, and I’ve been enjoying it in snatches for about a week now.

The difference between the book and the film is perhaps no surprise (and there are some significant differences). I think the film glossed over a lot of the deep and meaningful stuff, a lot of the nitty-gritty that you just can’t get at with dialogue between photogenic characters or intimate voice-overs. You need that most timeless and basic of mediums: a page of text. You need a skilled journalist capable of peeling back the layers of themselves and one who’s capable of seeing themselves reflected in their surroundings, or rather one who is capable of reading what the universe is telling them, in a metaphorical way, simply by what’s in front of their eyes – and setting it down on paper in an accessible way, a way that makes your reader go aha!!

For those of you who don’t know, “Eat, Pray, Love” is the true story of an American journalist (Elizabeth Gilbert) whose life falls apart, and how she rebuilds it. Put simply, she does this by travelling, first to Italy, where she eats, to India, where she prays, and then to Indonesia, where she finds love. The real story is infinitely more complex than that of course, and you really need to read the book. It’s the story of a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage, and a psychological voyage into what Jungians would call the dark night of the soul.

I was thinking though that no matter how inspirational this book is to me at the moment, many of us travel through life without quite getting our lives turned to rubble. The black tide of depression comes in now and then, and washes up around our doorsteps but without quite drowning us in shit. We’re able to take shelter in the upstairs rooms for the night, but come morning, we’re just about able to stare down our demons and steer the car back in the direction of our day-jobs. We lack the intellect, the finances, the personal freedoms, or just the sheer balls to take ourselves way across to the other side of the world and immerse ourselves in something totally unfamiliar. Or it may be that we’d quite like to quit everything and devote a year of our lives to a cathartic experience of travel and inner soul searching. It may be that we think we’d really like to spend some time in an ashram in India, but,… well,… things just aren’t quite that bad, and that cataclysm we’re half expecting to overwhelm us just,… doesn’t. Not quite. So we don’t go.

Does this mean we’re not that serious about understanding our lives and our selves after all, not that serious about understanding what God is? Well, possibly, it does, but worse, does our timidity in the face of our life’s circumstances mean we are excluded from any chance of experiencing God’s grace – just because God didn’t destroy our lives and then kick us half way around the globe?

I think on this latter point the answer has to be no. Studies of religious or spiritual awakenings show they are a fairly egalitarian phenomenon – open to all. All right, the man in the street may not experience God’s presence as often nor so regularly as a genuine Yogi, but once we know how to listen, I think God or “the universe” can find all sorts of ways of getting his/its message across to us personally.

Which brings me to the rather goofy picture at the top of this post. It was raining this morning, and I was in a contemplative mood. I happened to notice a rather colourful display of late summer flowers on my patio. They were like sunshine laughing the face of the overbearing greyness of the day and I wanted to capture the mood of them through my camera lens. I know,… I keep trying this and it hardly ever works, but then sometimes you get more than you bargained for, if you can only look at things in a different way and perhaps broaden your perspective.

I was only notionally aware, as I focused in on those flowers, that I was focussing through two objects on either side, on my window-sill. They were just “foreground interest”, but I wasn’t actually interested in them in the slightest. I thought the main picture was somewhere else – like in the middle. But in the end the camera focussed itself on the raindrops on the window and blurred the flowers out, bringing my foreground into a more significant focus. The first of those foreground objects, on the left, is a rather ornate soap-stone incense burner. I use it when I’m meditating, or just chilling with a glass of wine, but its aura is undeniably one of spiritual contemplation and – well – navel gazing. On the other side of course there’s rather a cheeky chicken who’s been hanging around since Easter, never having made it back into his box in the attic, and which I can hardly look at without wanting to smile.

So, what’s the universe telling me here?

Well, you can read this many ways of course, and in some respects having a metaphorical perspective is simply a question of reading just about anything from anything. But to me it’s saying chill out Michael – don’t take yourself so seriously!

I reach for the Kindle and spend the rest of the day in the company of Elizabeth Gilbert.

Great stuff.

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