Essay on The Unbearable Lightness of Being By Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera has written the book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. He used life form to explain the human being difference existential style. He defined that heaviness and lightness to help us re-think human life. He designed four main characters Tomas, Tereza, Sabina and Franz to show difference ways living style from urban to pastoral. This is response the existential question; what is better in our life? “Being unbearably heavy in life” or “being unbearable light in life.” Kundera said that philosopher “Parmenides posed this very question in the sixth century before Christ. He saw the world divided into pairs of opposites: light/ darkness, fineness / coarseness, warmth / cold, being/ non-being. One half of the opposition he called positive (light, fineness, warmth, being), the other negative, we might find this division into positive and negative poles childishly simple except for one difficulty: which one is positive, weight or lightness?” (Kundera: 1984: P.5) This question showed that problem of human being which one should positive, weight or lightness in our life.
Tomas existential style
Tomas living style should be erotic ways and out of love in front story, but he rented a room for Tereza and also one night stand with other woman, Sabina is Tomas closely mistress. Kundera written that “The unwritten contract of erotic friendship stipulated that Tomas should exclude all love from his life. The moment he violated that clause of the contract, his other mistresses would assume inferior status and become ripe for insurrection. Accordingly, he rented a room for Tereza and her heavy suitcase. He wanted to be able to watch over her, protect her, enjoy her presence, but felt no need to change his way of life.” (Kundera: 1984: P.13)
I believed that Tomas desire is not only responsibility for Tereza and also desire for other woman. This life style helps me re-think that responsibility and desire in my life. When I born in world, my father created my name connecting morality, “Chung” the Chinese meaning am heavy, “Tak” the Chinese meaning is morality; total meaning of my name is “heavy morality”. Although I had been heavy morality in my life, but I can choose to disclose my possibility of desire such as I reminded that the past memory of my Dad ill situation, I had not only care my Dad and also I had going to study and work. This situation reflected that my life should be feeling of heavy, because I had responsibility to my dad, study in school and work to keep my life, this responsibility become a pressure life.
Human pressure life is not only love responsibility and also social pressure was depressed our freedom, Tereza feel unhappy lived in Prague, she hope Tomas can bring leave Prague.
Tereza said that “Tereza had explained all this to Tomas and he knew that it was true. But he also knew that underneath it all hid still another, more fundamental truth, the reason why she wanted to leave Prague: she had never really been happy before.
The days she walked through the streets of Prague taking pictures of Russian soldiers and looking danger in the face were the best of her life. They were the only time when the television series of her dreams had been interrupted and she had enjoyed a few happy nights. The Russians had brought equilibrium to her in their tanks, and now that the carnival was over, she feared her nights again and wanted to escape them. She now knew there were conditions under which she could feel strong and fulfilled, and she longed to go off into the world and seek those conditions somewhere else.
It doesn't bother you that Sabina has also emigrated to Switzerland? Tomas asked.
Geneva isn't Zurich, said Tereza. She'll be much less of a difficulty there than she was in Prague. A person who longs to leave the place where he lives is an unhappy person. That is why Tomas accepted Tereza's wish to emigrate as the culprit accepts his sentence, and one day he and Tereza and Karenin found themselves in the largest city in Switzerland.” (Kundera: 1984: P.27)
I believed that Tereza leaved Prague reason should be the communist power too heavy, weapon suspended that human lightness time. Tomas question that “a person who longs to leave the place where he lives is an unhappy person.” This question help me re-think that if I leaved Hong Kong, I would be happy or unhappy, if I leaved Hong Kong, I feel happy reason might be put down my pressure and something unhappy feeling, this unhappy feeling like black. If I leaved Hong Kong, I feel unhappy reason might be too light in my life; this situation might be feel nothingness in my life
The heaviness life might be good, Kundera said that “necessity, weight, and value are three concepts inextricably bound: only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value. This is a conviction born of Beethoven's music, and although we cannot ignore the possibility (or even probability) that it owes its origins more to Beethoven's commentators than to Beethoven himself, we all more or less share, it: we believe that the greatness of man stems from the fact that he bears his fate as Atlas bore the heavens on his shoulders. Beethoven's hero is a lifter of metaphysical weights.” (Kundera: 1984: P.33)
My fate carried that responsibility to take care my dad in past time, this is I must do it; it is because this responsibility should be heavy, and this heavy become important value for my life. This being value is better my meaning of life, because I re-think this memory that reflection told me I had more than possibility in my life, my responsibility of dad is not only take care him and also I feel happy and victory in my reflection time, it is because I finished my responsibility to take care him, but the responsibility of human being is not one time to take care same lover or family. According to Nietzsche theory of eternal return, he point out that human being should be repeat event on his life; Kundera said that this is heavy on human being, so that this human being formation should be good my meaning of life.
Kundera point out that “If every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity as Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. It is a terrifying prospect. In the world of eternal return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every move we make. That is why Nietzsche called the idea of eternal return the heaviest of burdens (das schwerste Gewicht). If eternal return is the heaviest of burdens, then our lives can stand out against it in all their splendid lightness. But is heaviness truly deplorable and lightness splendid? The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?” (Kundera: 1984: P.5)
We had something responsibilities being in the world, I would be choose weight and lightness together, it is because I think that weight and lightness also is human being life style, we cannot leave it. If we want to leave something weight, it would be turn back in our life, it is because we unbearable lightness and nothingness. Human desire of love would be control our life, love should be mixed weight and lightness feeling, these feeling would be become Nietzsche theory of eternal return.
Soul and Body
Kundera point out that “Ever since man has learned to give each part of the body a name, the body has given him less trouble. He has also learned that the soul is nothing more than the gray matter of the brain in action. The old duality of body and soul has become shrouded in scientific terminology, and we can laugh at it as merely an obsolete prejudice. But just make someone who has fallen in love listen to his stomach rumble, and the unity of body and soul, that lyrical illusion of the age of science, instantly fades away.” (Kundera: 1984: P.40)
I believed that people science ways to understand the human body and soul is not fully present or represent human being; it is because scientific ways should be only understand the face in this world, including human body and soul, scientific ways may be misunderstand in this world.
Kundera used Tereza told us human being who self-understand ways, he said that “It was not vanity that drew her to the mirror; it was amazement at seeing her own” I”. She forgot she was looking at the instrument panel of her body mechanisms; she thought she saw her soul shining through the features of her face. She forgot that the nose was merely the nozzle of a hose that took oxygen to the lungs; she saw it as the true expression of her nature. Staring at herself for long stretches of time, she was occasionally upset at the sight of her mother's features in her face. She would stare all the more doggedly at her image in an attempt to wish them away and keep only what was hers alone. Each time she succeeded was a time of intoxication: her soul would rise to the surface of her body like a crew charging up from the bowels of a ship, spreading out over the deck, waving at the sky and singing in jubilation.” (Kundera: 1984: P.40)
When we do not understand the language and ideology, we are beginning mirror stage. Lacan (1901-1981) point out that the mirror test of 2 case, the monkey is not respond when seen from the mirror reflected to image, the baby is move their hand to respond from reflected image in mirror, they had seen that the mirror show the image to misunderstand of him. Lacan point out that “In deed, this act, far from exhausting it-self, as in the case of a monkey, in eventually acquired control over the uselessness of the image, immediately gives rise in a child to series of gestures in which he playfully experiences the relationship between this virtual complex and the reality it duplicates----namely, the child’s own body, and the persons and even things around him.”
Because image should fragment and it is not reality, we not only misunderstand its mine but we misunderstand of mother associate with me in the mirror. It is desire of return to mother body that never goes back to mother body, Lacan said that “the subject caught up in the lure of spatial identification, turns out fantasies that proceed from of its totality—and to the finally donned armor of an alienating identity that will mark his entire mental development with its rigid structure.”
I believe that the mirror image show “I” identity is alienating, because the mirror image should control me to believe that image is me, we through mirror image to control “I” to develop identity, but it identity is alienation and it is not reality. Because we through mirror to confirm our identity, it is not reality, when all baby from both to use the mirror, they believe that image is reality, but it is misunderstand, it is identity alienation, so the case of Tereza, she is misunderstand the mirror image reflection that she did not like her mother face. She want to break away from her mother fate; her mother fate is everybody fate, it is old.
Kundera said that we should not forget human fortuitous, he said that “They (Human) are composed like music. Guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurrence (Beethoven's music, death under a train) into a motif, which then assumes a permanent place in the composition of the individual's life. Anna could have chosen another way to take her life. But the motif of death and the railway station, unforgettably bound to the birth of love, enticed her in her hour of despair with its dark beauty. 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 (like the meeting of Anna, Vronsky, the railway station, and death or the meeting of Beethoven, Tomas, Tereza, and the cognac), but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.” (Kundera: 1984: P.52)
I believed that this fortuitous should be beautiful in my life; it is because this beautiful is not give me the feeling of nothingness, and this beautiful feeling is being, I feel my being like music and novel, I re-think my life should be something transformation; I always change my being style from my study stage to working stage than comeback to study stage.
When I was promoted to high school, dad forced me to study and work together, I felt work should be really tired, so I had to class to sleep. Finally, I did not finish high school curriculum into the social had work full-time, my father and stepmother not logical to say that I cannot study, they think the secondary school study should be useless. I had worked for five years until I found an excuse not to relate for them, so that I can go back to school study. The fortuitous opportunity that I can cashed my dream of study in university, Hong Kong government constructed associate degree program. When I know this opportunity, I immediately left my full-time job who study and finished my dream.
What are you doing here?
Kundera point out that“The difference between the university graduate and the autodidact lies not so much in the extent of knowledge as in the extent of vitality and self-confidence. The elan with which Tereza flung herself into her new Prague existence was both frenzied and precarious. She seemed to be expecting someone to come up to her any day and say, What are you doing here? Go back where you belong! All her eagerness for life hung by a thread: Tomas's voice. For it was Tomas's voice that had once coaxed forth her timorous soul from its hiding place in her bowels. Tereza had a job in a darkroom, but it was not enough for her. She wanted to take pictures, not develop them. Tomas's friend Sabina lent her three or four monographs of famous photographers, then invited her to a cafe and explained over the open books what made each of the pictures interesting. Tereza listened with silent concentration, the kind few professors ever glimpse on their students' faces.” (Kundera: 1984: P.55)
I re-think that human life should be something life experience, it is not only study on the book and also we should be disclosed our life. The life experience disclosed our life that related something other things in the world, it is very important that we should not just working in our life that working process should be related human soul and the world rather than we had worked like machinery not relation in the world.
Kundera point out that “Anyone whose goal is something higher must expect some day to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? Then why do we feel it even when the observation tower comes equipped with a sturdy handrail? No, vertigo is something other than the fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.” (Kundera: 1984: P.59-60)
When I would do my dream, I felt fear that this is nothingness; it is because I did not want to turn back before situation rather than falling before situation. I should bring my past life experience into present time and re-think it help me reject that fear feeling, although I sometime feel fear but I can fight it through I reject nothingness process.
“All lovers unconsciously establish their own rules of the game, which from the outset admit no transgression. The stare she had just fixed on him fell outside their rules; it had nothing in common with the looks and gestures that usually preceded their lovemaking. It was neither provocative nor flirtatious, simply interrogative. The problem was, Franz had not the slightest notion what it was asking.” (Kundera: 1984: P.84)
The unconsciously rules is not only for lovers and also it is related my relationship between my family. My family rules like law cannot transgression, it is because the rules I felt that is too powerful to control me, the rules constructed by my father such as my morality standard, I re-think before this experience that I felt not good, it is because I had not finished his morality standard, so that I re-think now through this book to do self-reflection, I may be misunderstand this unconsciously family rules in past, this rules may be better my future time, it is because this morality standard representing values. This values help me disclosed my life rather than control my life.
Light and Darkness
Kundera said that “Living for Sabina meant seeing. Seeing is limited by two borders: strong light, which blinds, and total darkness. Perhaps that was what motivated Sabina's distaste for all extremism. Extremes mean borders beyond which life ends, and a passion for extremism, in art and in politics, is a veiled longing for death.” (Kundera: 1984: P.94)
I believed that Sabina said that living is seeing, when I (eye) seeing something, the other things should be outside in our soul. Sabina challenged that extremism limited our soul, this idea help me re-think that my mind should not be extremism, it is limited my I (eye), I should disclosed my more possibility in my life.
Living in truth
Kundera point out that “for Sabina, living in truth, lying neither to ourselves nor to others, was possible only away from the public: the moment someone keeps an eye on what we do, allowances for that eye, and nothing we do is truthful. Having a public, keeping a public in mind, means living in lies. Sabina despised literature in which people give away all kinds of intimate secrets about themselves and their friends. A man who loses his privacy loses everything, Sabina thought. And a man who gives it up of his own free will is a monster. That was why Sabina did not suffer in the least from having to keep her love secret. On the contrary, only by doing so could she live in truth.” (Kundera: 1984: P.112-113)
I believed that Sabina idea of living in truth, we should not lying in our life, it is because we just followed that other people idea to living in our life, it is not truth, lying life should be unhappy life, we would not being in truth.
We should be privacy life, Sabina said that we should not lose fully privacy, it is because she feels that privacy is being truth, she feel being herself. I re-think that privacy in my life, if I fully show my fully privacy to other people, I think I will be fear. Because I do not want to lose everything, my privacy may be like tools by Capitalist, they would like quotation me what is your strong skill to help us do something? I hate this question from Capitalism society, it is because they controlled human like tools, they setting the money values like dog, dog is listening by master to being, so that human being should be like dog, human should be privacy in our life.
Kundera point out that “Franz, on the other hand, was certain that the division of life into private and public spheres is the source of all lies: a person is one thing in private and something quite different in public. For Franz, living in truth meant breaking down the barriers between the private and the public. He was fond of quoting Andre Breton on the desirability of living in a glass house into which everyone can look and there are no secrets.” (Kundera: 1984: P.113)
I think that Franz said that human should be bring marks into society to represent that human being himself, but this is not lied, it is because human bring all marks into society that also is himself, human should be difference personality in himself. If human show own one personality in one situation, this is repressed by other personality to fulfill the situation such as I am studied in school, I cannot show working style myself in this situation, and also I am working in office or site, I cannot show study style in this situation. But this two ways of my life style is also my personality, I am not lied, it is because difference style also presentation on myself.
The unbearable lightness of being
Kundera said that “When we want to give expression to a dramatic situation in our lives, we tend to use metaphors of heaviness. We say that something has become a great burden to us. We either bear the burden or fail and go down with it, we struggle with it, win or lose. And Sabina what had come over her? Nothing. She had left a man because she felt like leaving him. Had he persecuted her? Had he tried to take revenge on her? No. Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden but the unbearable lightness of being. Until that time, her betrayals had filled her with excitement and joy, because they opened up new paths to new adventures of betrayal. But what if the paths came to an end? One could betray one's parents, husband, country, love, but when parents husband, country, and love were gone what was left to betray? Sabina felt emptiness all around her. What if that emptiness was the goal of all her betrayals?” (Kundera: 1984: P.121-122)
I always said that my life is heavy and black in my past, although I lose my family, but I re-think that this is explored my colorful life, it is because this is my life experience and I finished it, so that I would be lightness? I think it is not lightness think, because I am not like Sabina, she betrayed her all thinks, it is nothingness, it is human being unbearable lightness style, so that Sabina finally come back to Franz, she cannot unbearable lightness on her life. Therefore we cannot betray all thinks in our life, it is nothingness idea, it may be lose my life.
Kundera his masterpieces represent that human life form to show unbearable heavy and light life situation. It is help us re-think our life being style should be too heavy or too light, although we cannot control our birth fate but we can change our fate and control our life both heavy and light. Therefore I permeated “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” to understood that being situation. I should left my heavy but I should not left all responsibility. The best life style is both heavy and light.
Jacques Lacan (1949). Écrits: the mirror stage as formative of the I Function. New York. W.W Nortion & Company. P.94-100
Milan Kundera (1984). Michael Henry Heim (trans.). The Unberable Lightness of Being. New York. Harper & Row Publishers.