Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Where are you going?

I’ve always been torn between two contrasting philosophies about how to live. Some tell me I should start making plans now: What do you want to do with your life? How do you plan to contribute to society and better the world? Where are you going to live while you do all this? So many questions I know I should at least consider but could not possibly have a definite answer to, especially when I am always changing, learning, evolving. On the other hand, there is a more carpe diem point of view, encouraging me to take my time and enjoy the present. Of course, I know that the ideal would be to find a balance between the two; however, this is proving more easily said than done during my years as a college student. I find myself rushing the week while trying to savor the weekend, preparing for the real world while trying to enjoy and cherish these four short years. Time never fails to escape me

This being said, among the most interesting aspects of Eat, Pray, Love’s final portion for me was the three customary Balinese questions and their “proper” answers. Regarding the first two questions, Where are you going? and Where are you coming from?, Gilbert writes, “If you tell them that you don’t know where you’re going, or that you’re just wandering about randomly, you might instigate a bit of distress in the heart of your new Balinese friend” (228). This seems like a somewhat restrictive idea, not really leaving much room for flexibility or uncertainty. The Balinese people insist that you exist somewhere on the “grid” so as to stay grounded and maintain stability. Gilbert discovers that the final question is Are you married?

The strategy for answering this question is fascinating to me. She explains that “the best possible answer is ‘Not yet.’ This is a polite way of saying “No,” while indicating your optimistic intentions to get that taken care of just as soon as you can” (228). This response, unlike the definite ones required for the first two questions, offers more leeway. In Gilbert’s or any “eighty-year-old strident feminist lesbian nun’s” case, the idea of responding with “not yet” may appear limiting or biased. But for the young and open-minded, more specifically, those of us who haven’t just struggled with a devastating divorce and subsequently lost all hope in life and the male sex, it can be a liberating prospect. It allows for a potential that you may not have considered before. If you happen to be one of those women who are irrevocably opposed to marriage, it leaves open the possibility that someone could literally say “not yet” every single day until they at last utter it with their dying breath. “Not yet” can hold you back, but if you look from a positive point of view, it can also create freedom—especially when compared to the “grid” of the first two questions.

I think approaching life in this way does create a form of balance. Some aspects are fixed and others flexible. Also, I really like the idea of “not yet.” It sounds like a good way to reconcile my confusion over living now and planning for later…it sounds relaxing.

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