Alcohol, Animals, Buddhism, Chess, Comedy, Dalai Lama, Directions, Earth, Ecology, Fantasy, Foxes, Frogs, Funny, Galaxy, Giraffes, God, Grapes, Harry Potter, Humor, J.K. Rowling, Jokes, Joy, Laughter, Life, Lost, Love, Master of None, Philosophy, Science Fiction, Sirius, Star Wars, Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Trees, Videogames
I haven’t read this book.
And, since I’ve mentioned it here before, in another blog post, I think maybe I should.
The first time I recall hearing the title? In the season one finale of the fine NetFlix original Show called “Master of None.”
A fine, New York City-based comedy that at first seems to be lighter fare, it becomes a much deeper affair in the last few of the 10 season one episodes, particularly in the relationship-revelation finale. In the finale, Dev’s father, an immigrant, sees his son’s thirty year old… uncertainty about what to do with his life… and mentions the metaphor of the fruited tree as it appears in “The Bell Jar.”
Life is like a tree, with almost infinite branches of paths. A kind of fruit tips each branch. Be a writer? Get married? Have children? Become a monk? An athlete? A wealthy businessman? A movie star? A hermit? A social butterfly?
Yet the choice overwhelms so many of us.
Me included. As I’ve mentioned before, it overwhelms me in the larger sense of “career and family,” and in the smaller sense of “what videogame to play next.”
Do you struggle with this pathfinding?
Another reference to it that I recall came from a guidance counsellor. Not one I met, but one I heard quoted on the radio, perhaps. She referenced the crippling uncertainty of so many young people, young people unable to decide which path to take in life. What if they pick the wrong one? What if? She felt such empathy for them, in this World so full of choice, so illustrative of how freedom can be a burden.
The whole topic came up for me again, just under an hour ago, as I sat in the dark listening to Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” as masterfully read by David Horovitch. Coming about one third of the way through this my third listening-to of the novel, Constantine, at his country estate, questions the motivations of his visiting, intellectual brother. He feels something is amiss in how his elder brother comes to his sense of how to live rightly and helpfully. He senses that his brother comes to it not through his heart, through a deep, emotional certainty about what path to take, but through reasoning. And, Constantine believes, this results in a cold path where one is bound to one’s path with no more passionate attachment than to “a game of chess.”
Seems as though Koznyshev, Constantine’s brother, could do with a release of some of his inhibitions so as not to be a pawn of logic.
This apt, eye-opening reference to “heart” as the cause of one’s cure to the problem of the bell jar life tree reminded me, of course, of how my father (and even an uncle) have “accused” me of imperfect writing due to “a lack of heart” in it. Not in all writing, as anyone who read my eulogy for my father knows, but more often in my fiction. I don’t “commit” to characters very easily, don’t know them fully, as even J.K. Rowling does.
Ah but my father would SO have loved that “Airplane!” reference. Although I’m not sure he ever read the “Harry Potter” novels.
So it begs the question:
If I were better at fully committing to my characters, at “just knowing” with all my heart what THEIR path is, would I suffer less under the suffocating bell jar?
The other connection, of course, is to the Buddhism audiobook I listened to several times about fifteen years ago. I can’t remember if it was “The Art of Happiness,” co-written by the Dalai Lama, or “Buddhism: Plain and Simple,” but the idea had to do with how infinite choice is not freedom. Rather, “true freedom comes when you have no choice.”
That is to say… you just “know” what the right path is.
Your heart tells you. Full on. Plain and simple.
I often wonder about my heart.
I know I have a big one. But I’m crippled so often by fear. My need for… safety… hampers me so much. Susceptible to great passions, I often suppress them in order to “keep the peace.” Romantic relationships suffer, although great communication and courage are needed if one is to un-suppress them. And “career” suffers, too. I just can’t “decide” to wholeheartedly devote myself to being a filmmaker, a social and environmental activist, a game-maker, a journalist, or even an author.
I just feel too much doubt. And it may be because I keep my heart off in the distance, misty and half-seen, visible only through a fog of safety.
Following one’s heart can lead to hurting people.
And I know all too well, as the channeler told me a decade and a half ago, that this life is in part a quest to deal with too much concern for what other people think. One should care about helping others, but betraying one’s heart so as never to make others uncomfortable, or so as to not be judged harshly, leads to trouble.
At times, one can even convince one’s self that the branches do not even bear fruit. So why risk the climb at all? Why be unsafe, both directly, and in the face of the “howls up at the fool” from below?
Ah, the Fox and the Grapes.
Those grapes, out of reach for one reason or another, were probably just sour anyway….
And so I stay on the ground, in a kind of comfortable, sedentary hot water, unaware that life is boiling me by.
And how could I but finish with a reference to how Humanity is boiling the World by?
Although, in truth, the problem there is TOO MUCH certainty on the part of Humanity about the one true path. What a contradiction.
Evolution is all about putting a little weight on every branch, and not all of it on one, which imbalances and tips over the whole tree.
If only I weren’t simply one man but rather… the whole scope of life. Then I could eat the fruit of every branch.
Galaxies have branches. Arms, really.
All arms? All branches? Alas, without access to all the realities in the “Many-Worlds Interpretation” of the Universe, I’m out of luck.
But so are you.
I know. I know.
You’re most likely to do as I do, not as I say. Just don’t get pushy. I might tip over, infectiously drunk on Humanity’s fictional godly power as I likely am. And that would make me feel very, very unsafe.