In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want—husband, country home, successful career—but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and set out to explore three different aspects of her nature, against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.
“You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be.”
“There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. ‘How much do you love me?’ and ‘Who’s in charge?’ Everything else is somehow manageable. But these two questions of love and control undo us all, trip us up and cause war, grief, and suffering.”
“Just as there exists in writing a literal truth and a poetic truth, there also exists in a human being a literal anatomy and a poetic anatomy. One, you can see; one, you cannot. One is made of bones and teeth and flesh; the other is made of energy and memory and faith. But they are both equally true.”
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.”
“Dante writes that God is not merely a blinding vision of glorious light, but that He is, most of all, l’amour che move il sole e l’altre stelle…’The love that moves the sun and the other stars.'”
“He says all Americans are like this: repressed. Which makes them dangerous and potentially deadly when they do blow up.”
“Destiny, I feel, is also a relationship–a play between divine grace and willful self-effort. Half of it you have no control over; half of it is absolutely in your hands, and your actions will show measurable consequence. Man is neither entirely a puppet of the gods, nor is he entirely the captain of his own destiny; he’s a little of both.”
“And love is always complicated. But still humans must try to love each other, darling. We must get our hearts broken sometimes. This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”
“Bhuta ia, dewa ia…Man is a demon, man is a god.”
I first read this book back in high school; almost 6 years ago. I remember that it had resonated very deeply with me and almost mystified me with the words Gilbert had painted across the pages. This book is her journey of rediscovery after a divorce and depression that leave her questioning who she is and her purpose in life. Gilbert heals her wounds in what starts as a desperate grasp at survival and transforms into a a life experience so powerful that it resonates with millions world-wide.
I had recently stumbled across some old quotes I had written down from the book all those years ago and decided I would like to reread it and see if I still felt the same way towards it that I did all those years ago. I have since discovered that while it still is an excellent read and I would still recommend anyone and everyone reads it, I have become far more experienced and jaded with the world than I was at the age of 15. As I had said, I remembered being mystified and in awe of Gilbert’s experiences and was envious of her adventures and epiphanies. Rereading the book, I am still envious and slightly mystified but I have since developed my own sense of beliefs and was able to relate to Gilbert as an equal rather than follow behind and hang on to her every word. Now, please don’t take that as I didn’t enjoy the book or that it still wasn’t inspiring to read because it most certainly was. All I am saying is that as I have matured, so too, have my views on the world.
This book still resonates very deeply with me in terms of struggling with difficult life situations and trying to find ways to enjoy life to the fullest for yourself (not selfishly). Of course, I’m not a middle-aged woman going through a divorce but everyone has their own issues that they have to work out and learn to live with. I’m quite jealous that Gilbert had the opportunity to travel the world and enjoy new foods, new languages, and new teachings.
Something that I loved about this book is Gilbert incorporated some history of the places she was visiting into the mix and used excellent details to make the reader feel as if they were traveling right along side her. She also is very raw about her feelings and how crippling her depression really was, as well as, how awe-inspiring her feelings were to experience happiness and devotion. I would view this as a difficult task, to be so open with strangers. At the same time, that is exactly what I am doing on this blog; being more open with strangers as they read my thoughts typed out for whomever chooses to read them.
While Gilbert was in India, she searched for devotion and new discovery into a higher power. This was without a doubt, my favorite part of the book because I have a fascination with a higher power. Gilbert ventures through this part of her life through meditation and prayer. This interested me because I have been raised in a (nonpracticing) Christian family. I am used to hearing about going to church and praying rather than sitting in a temple and meditating. If I were to pick a religion for myself it would be something along the lines of what Gilbert experienced, meditating within your own mind to find a God. Gilbert does point out in her book, in a multitude of ways, that everyone’s definition of God is different and can be called different things. There is no one set God or one set religion that is right or wrong. It seemed to Gilbert that God was in everyone and everything. Rather than a physical manifestation of a single being, God was the energy in the universe. You will have to read the book for your own interpretations but I found all of it very appealing and hope to continue to further educate myself based on the teachings in the book. I think we could all use a look at the bigger picture and perhaps a better grasp on faith (no matter your definition of it).
The only thing I wish, and this is me being selfish, is that she had expanded upon her time in Indonesia; her journey to find balance. It is there that she meets her current husband, I wish that she had expanded upon their relationship more. I see it as an important aspect of the book simply because at the beginning of the story she is going through the loss of a marriage and at the end of the story she is meeting her current husband; she has gone full circle. I found this ironic (and interesting) considering a teaching she had learned about while in Indonesia is that the Universe is a circle. Heaven and Hell are the same place, both are filled with love, but you get through one with happiness and through the other with sadness. Gilbert’s life goes full circle. Literally in the sense of starting in a marriage and ending in a marriage but also emotionally, she started off unhappy and ends up happy and balanced. She has written another book that goes into more detail about her relationship with the man who is now her husband. It is on my “to read” list and will hopefully fill my interest as to what happened after Indonesia.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is even slightly curious about what there is to possibly learn out there in the world. It opened up so many doors and invoked so many thoughts and feelings within myself that leave me wanting to seek out answers to all of my questions. Readers live through all of Gilbert’s experiences and lessons, hopefully taking some lessons off the page and incorporating them into their lives; I know I did. This book enlightened me and shed light on teachings and possibilities that I am excited to explore further. Perhaps I will even go on my own journey of self-discovery someday. Fingers crossed!