Tag Archives: Morality

Read Along 3: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Parts 5 – 7

17 Feb

Read Along 3
With the snow that’s pounded us here in Detroit, Nicole and I have had a lot more time inside to read than we normally do. So instead of stretching this Read Along into four parts, we’ve combined the last two and finished the book! Yep, it’s over. That was a short Read-Along. It only means we’re closer to Read Along #4! Be ready.

Questions from Nicole: In part 5, we learn about Tomas’s article that he wrote comparing Oedipus to the Czech Communists. How can we compare Tomas’s personal actions to the Oedipus story?  His love affairs continued to happen well after he knew Tereza wanted monogamy and in turn hurt her, do you think this was an act that he could claim he didn’t know he was doing?

I don’t think so. Tomas is very aware of what he’s doing and that it’s wrong. I can compare Tereza to Oedipus more readily. She knew when she started dating Tomas that he was unfaithful and tried to change him. When that didn’t work, she tried being unfaithful herself. Because of Tomas’s actions, she didn’t realize that it would be wrong to be unfaithful to him but when she did, she repented and punished herself. This reminded me more of Oedipus’s self-inflicted pain than any part of Tomas’s story.

Also from Nicole: Part 6 brings a lot of deaths. Tereza, Tomas and Franz all die. Pulling in the title of the book, how do you think the unbearable lightness of their being was justified (or not) justified in their deaths. Sabina is left alone and now lives in California, and we learn that she plans her own death – how is her unbearable lightness justified now that she is dead inside but still mortal?

I think this is answered for Tereza and Tomas in part 7 and I’ll answer it later, but here I’ll discuss Franz. I think he was finally able to achieve a lightness of being but lost it in his final moments. After Sabina left him, he found happiness and was honest with his wife. His young mistress and him were good together and I liked them as a couple. But in his final moments, all he could think of was Sabina. It bothered me a lot that after finding lightness and not worrying about his wife, he ruined what he had with the student by bringing Sabina back.

I don’t agree that Sabina is dead inside. I think she is afraid of a lot of things and commitment is chief of those. The last time we see her, she’s made a commitment to a couple that she knows will not last long. I think she’s only able to achieve lightness by not committing but at the same time, it hurts her to be constantly leaving. I think her lightness comes at a terrible price.

Also from Nicole: When Karenin gets sick and needs to be put to sleep, Tereza accounts her relationship with man vs dog. This section was interesting to me, as an animal lover. Comparing the loyalties and companionship of animal to man has some great contrasts. How can we compare the lightness of being to animals and man? Some people argue that animals have no conscious state, meaning they don’t know any better than to be loyal to their owners. What ideas/thoughts do you have with this last theory?

I believe that animals have feelings and mental capacities and I think many animals demonstrate loyalty. Dogs are a great example, like Karenin. My turtle is conscience enough to know my husband feeds her most of the time and will look to him for food. Karenin liked the love and attention Tereza gave him and that made him happy. I’m not sure if a dog has the mental capacity to understand the lightness of being. I’m trying to think what a dog could do to achieve that state. Maybe he is always there. There is not much that weighs heavy on a dog’s conscious or that he can dream of to make him happier. I can imagine a dining room table that would make me very happy even though I’ve never seen one that looks like the one in my head. I don’t think Karenin could imagine a toy that he’s never seen before that could make him happy. What he has makes him happy so he is content and has achieved the lightness.

And finally, here’s the musing topic I wrote, which is where I’ll return to the second question: We’ve taken a novel to explain what the Unbearable Lightness of Being is. Now that we know, it’s time to pass judgement. Is it good to feel the lightness? Or is it too unbearable to seek?

I think Tomas and Tereza’s journeys tell us this. Tomas felt the lightness of being for so long and he thought it made him happy. As he grew older, he felt it weighing him down and saw that it affected his relationship with Tereza so that it was never what he wanted it to be. In the end, he was able to forgo his womanizing ways and thought he wasn’t light, he was happy. Tereza was weighed down by Tomas and could never achieve the lightness until they went to the country. Then she realized how she was weighing Tomas down and felt heavy for that. There’s no perfect lightness or perfect heaviness but there’s somewhere in the middle where we are the most happy.

And now it’s over! That was a quick read but I’m really glad I read it. My friend who recommended this goes on my mental ‘trusted recommendations’ list.

Until next time, write on.

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Book Review: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (4/5)

23 Dec

One of my really good friends from college recommended this to me back in August. During my crunch to finish my book goal, I grabbed it as an audiobook on my phone and listened to it while I made Christmas cookies. Jealous yet?

Cover Image from Goodreads.com

Cover Image from Goodreads.com

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is remembered most for the Chronicles of Narnia though he is sometimes called the greatest Christian writer of the modern era. This was my first endeavor into his Christian writings. The book is structured as a series of letters from Screwtape, a senior demon, to his nephew Wormwood. Wormwood has been assigned to his first ‘patient’ and acts as a tempter, trying to turn the patient toward an afterlife in Hell. Wormwood falls into many pitfalls along the way and Screwtape has to advise him as to what is most likely to corrupt a Christian man whose friends are all strong Christians and who’s truly in love with woman he’s seeing. I now know that there are an unlimited number of ways to trip up such a man.

The patient lives in England during World War II. As to his identity, we get very small hints to his intellect, social class, and preferences from the suggestions Screwtape offers for undermining the patient’s soul. Wormwood is constantly missing opportunities that Screwtape chastises him for, reminding his nephew that the consequences for not turning the man to ‘their father’ (the Devil) are very severe and painful and that he would do well to apply himself more firmly.

I really enjoyed this book. Lewis was able to point out so many potentially condemning existences that many Christians tend to over-look or make excuses for in everyday life. He would point out the different ways that one can be a glutton or the ways in which intelligence can corrupt a person to believe that they are better or entitled to things.

I think that there are many people who are Christians who believe that because they are, their souls are saved. Lewis is responding to this group of Christians and telling them that despite what they can say about their love of God, there are innumerable ways for the Devil to insert himself into their lives and tempt them into an eternity in hell. To be truly saved, we have to live the lives that God wants for us and listen to his commandments and will. Screwtape describes those who are in God’s hands as ‘untouchable,’ that the tempters are not able to get near them because they are surrounded by the Holy Spirit. This is the state Lewis is advising us all to reach.

It’s easy to imagine that this book doesn’t sit well with some people. I’ve met a lot of people who unfortunately have the life philosophy of ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ These are people who say they’re solid Christians but at the slightest provocation will indulge in one of the seven deadly sins or turn their back on a neighbor in his time of need. This book calls those people out by using a man similar to them as an example. The patient doesn’t realize he is flawed and thinks of himself as virtuous. Screwtape points out the temptations in his life, the ways that he is only millimeters from damnation at every step. He gives Wormwood hundreds of ways to bring the patient to the Devil but, on his own virtue, the patient is saved.

This book made me think of a novel I read way back in high school, The Wish List by Eoin Colfer. The main character dies suddenly and is stuck in purgatory, being neither good enough for Heaven nor bad enough for Hell. She has to go back to Earth and is given a second chance to make up for the wrong she’s done and prove she deserves a spot in Heaven. I feel that Colfer’s book is a juvenile edition of Lewis’s work as the same message is told inside a fictional tale.

Writer’s Takeaway: Similar to my message about The Martian Chronicles, I liked that Lewis was delivering a message without hitting the reader over the head with it. If one chose to turn off the religious lens, this book is still worth the read. He found a way to write about religion without writing a strictly religious text. During my 2-Hit Google search, I found that some people call this book a satire and I’m semi-inclined to agree. It had a similar feeling to A Modest Proposal which was one of my favorites in British Literature.

Inspiring, eye-opening and engaging. 4 out of 5 stars.

Until next time, write on.

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