In addition to being the title of a famous book by the Czech Author Mila Kundera, ‘the unbearable lightness of being’ is a phrase which resonates deeply with me. There is a depth to that combination of words, an almost weightiness to the concept of being unbearably light, in itself a juxtaposition that invites more than just a passing thought.
The premise of the novel is that Kundera is challenging Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence. The idea that the universe and it’s events have already occurred, and will occur ad infinitum. It is due to this eternal recurrence of events that our decisions have a weightiness to them, for what we choose to do now will affect our outcomes not just in this life, but in every recurring life we inhabit for eternity.
Kundera posits that we only live once, and that what happens based upon our decisions is unique and fleeting, hence the lightness of our being. Whatever may happen to us only happens once, so there’s no need to be at pains over that which occurs, it is but fleeting and shall never recur.
All that aside, the reason I am so enamoured of the phrase is that it has a certain attractive quality to it, a beauty that not every sentence has, and a resonance that is rare, in my mind at least. I believe that Kundera’s assertion is more accurate than Nietzsche’s, that our existence is a one time affair, and that whatever happens this time around shall never occur again. Depending on your religious beliefs, you will die one day and either ascend to heaven, descend to hell, transcend into an endless, meaningless void or he reincarnated as a creature with a higher or lower level of consciousness and social status based upon how you lived this life. I like the Buddhist approach best, the last one, despite being raised as Roman Catholic, believing in God and all the values of the church.
So why is it that our being is so unbearably light? What is it that gives our existence such an ephemeral, almost intangible quality, despite how caught up in the drama of our day to day lives we.sometimes become? It is because I have come to.discover that the ONLY moment we need worry about is THIS moment, right now, the present.
That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the past or plan for the future, but regretting what has come to pass or worrying about that which may occur is a sure way to wind up with mental health problems, whereas living in the NOW is a sure fire way to ensure your serenity, if not happiness and contentment with what life has to offer. For even if I am in excruciating pain, I know that it is only for this very moment that I need bear the pain. The next moment, I can deal with when it arrives, and be grateful the last has passed.
If I were to dwell in the past, I would wind.up depressed, I know this for a fact, because it has already happened to me. If I were to only worry about what kind of future I have ahead of me, I’d be so busy stressing about buying a house, finding a girlfriend, raising my children and making money that I would never give myself the space to enjoy what is going on around me. I wouldn’t ever stop to ‘smell the roses’ or enjoy a great piece of music, a delicious meal or a friend’s good company.
So keep this in mind as you go about your day today.
Yesterday is history,
Tomorrow is a mystery,
But today is a gift.
That is why it is called The Present.