Eat, Pray, Love–Drive!

During much of an almost twelve-hour drive home to Ohio, my daughter read me the Pray section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.  My reaction to the book is almost wholly negative but nonetheless complicated.  There are funny bits.  Gilbert is almost charmingly oblivious to her second order self-centeredness as she yammers on and on and oh-gosh!-look-at-me-not-looking-at-me on about overcoming her self-centeredness.  The section I heard is unequal parts Plotinus and soccer mom (more soccer mom and less Plotinus).  She provides an account of her boutique Beatific Vision that makes the via negativa seem like an aisle at Target.   Strangely, she admits to cherry-picking her religion; yet she makes spiritual progress almost exclusively when she does, by obedience and against her will, something that is integral (and is done as integral) to the existing yogi tradition she wants to cherry-pick.  Her fall from the Beatific Vision is occasioned by a litany of self-assertion, of will:  “I want…”, “I do not want…”.  But she still advocates going through existing religions with an “I want…”, “I do not want…” procedure.  She wants to have faith but not a faith.  Unfortunately, the first lacks content without the second (unless mental pictures of butterflies or feelings of celestial warmth can do duty for the content of a faith–which I doubt). Mysticism this misty involves a letting-go that truly empties the letting-goer (but the emptiness comes at the wrong end:  at the beginning of the mystical effort and not at its culmination).

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