Reflections on The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Comments Off on Reflections on The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Boweler_hatOne of my favorite movies of all times is Unbearable Lightness of Being, taken from the famous novel by Milan Kundera.

I have seen the movie countless times but only partially read the book many moons ago until recently, when I completely devoured the book.

It’s hard to imagine that a movie could win over a novel (rarely does any movie do that), but in this case, the movie is so captivating and dives into so many rich characters and themes (love, loss, men/women divide, war, communism), that it still sits at the top of my list.

The visuals are ever-intoxicating and I fell in love with each character all over again — in the novel and in the movie. Kundera has a wonderful way of making you feel ‘lighter’ as you flip through the pages, despite his countless dark themes.

He reminds you of the importance of ‘feeling’ life not just ‘living it.’ Roughly a third the way through the book, I found myself walking out to my back garden and standing there for several moments in the rain.

With gratitude, I marveled at some of my favorite plants, incredibly aware of the fact that they too breathed life. He motivates and inspires with his writing, through his own delivery and the delivery of his characters.

Sabina is perhaps my favorite, the mistress of main character Tomas, a famous surgeon in Prague until the war breaks out and he loses his position over an article with political undertones he once wrote for a magazine. After the Communists took control, the life you once knew vanished, even more so if you wanted to live the truth. For Tomas, this meant a new career window washing.

Sabina is one of many women he shares throughout the years he is married to Tereza, a waitress who moves to Prague from the country hoping to be rescued by Tomas, the sexy doctor. Tereza, who escapes from an unhealthy relationship with her mother, spends her entire marriage having nightmares about his sexual escapades and of potentially losing him. She’s fragile but delicious, weak but delightful, feminine but dark.

Sabina is fragile too, but all we see on the outside is her strength and independence. Yet, it is glaringly obvious that she lives her life in fear and won’t emotionally commit to any man. An artist, afraid of love and being loved, Sabina is as vivacious and sexy on paper as she is on the screen.

Her bowler hat, which she uses as sexual foreplay with Tomas and other lovers has much more symbolism for her than a prop to tease men. It was a vague reminder of a forgotten grandfather, the major of a small Bohemian town during the 19th century. It was also a memento of her father, as well as a sign of her originality, which she continuously cultivated. Forever sentimental, it was lastly a reminder of her past homes, relationships and family.

Kundera so beautifully writes, “the bowler hat was a motif in the musical composition that was Sabina’s life. It returned again and again, each time with a different meaning, and all the meanings flowed through the bowler hat like a riverbed. (like an echo, like a parade of echos).”

In his section on misunderstood words, he does an incredible job of capturing the language and gender barriers between men and women. Powerfully so.

Of Franz, Sabina’s most serious lover outside of Tomas, he notes, “what he did not know was that Sabina was charmed more by betrayal than by fidelity. What is betrayal? Betrayal means breaking the ranks. Betrayal means breaking ranks and going off into the unknown. Sabina knew of nothing more magnificent than going off into the unknown.”

Having lived in countless parts of the world, its no wonder I resonate most with Sabina time and time again. It is also why she connects with ‘breaking-the-ranks’ Tomas at a much more intimate level than Franz, despite the fact that he is a man who worships Sabina, so much so that he ultimately leave his wife to be with her.

But this is the moment that Sabina pulls away. This was much more than a fundamental difference between men and women. Living for Sabina meant seeing. He writes, “seeing is limited by two borders: strong light, which blinds and total darkness.

Perhaps that was what motivated Sabina’s distaste for all extremism. Extremes means borders beyond which life ends, and a passion for extremism, in art, and in politics, is a veiled longing for death.”

For Franz, who was a man of structure, control and organization in every way, darkness was necessary for his body to experience pleasure. For him, that darkness was “pure, perfect, thoughtless, visionless, that darkness was without end, without borders, that darkness was the infinite we each carry within us.”

For her, “darkness did not mean infinity, but the negation of what was seen, the refusal to see.” Yes yes Sabina, its because you needed to retreat every time you came closer to the truth and your lover too was afraid, until you set him free.

Yes, the darkness was lifted and he finally learned how to live in light. (after Sabina leaves of course). Sabina, it was as if you were a bird that flew in to magically touch his heart, bless him with your gift and then soared off into the next life that needed your light.

Alas, opposites attract and this fine example that Kundera throws our way is a reminder to women of how we can tap into a man’s strength yet learn how to accept his vulnerabilities while still loving and respecting him.

This, is a hard thing for women to do, as hard as it is for a man to respect a woman’s strength but still be physically attracted to this masculine quality in the same way he is attracted to her feminine softness and flowing energy. Polarity baby, polarity. It’s a powerful thing.

She asks Franz at one point, “why don’t you ever use your strength on me?” He replies, “Because love means renouncing strength.” My heart sunk the moment I read it knowing not only what Sabina’s response was going to be, but that his answer would lead to the decision she had been avoiding for months.

And there they were, the words on the page that tore my heart apart, “Sabina realized two things: first, that Franz’s words were noble and just; second, that they disqualified him from her love life.”

Ships passing in a night….there for a lesson or two; there for a year’s worth of loving embraces; there to build strength. And so, we have to learn the rules of detachment early on to avoid a lifetime full of disqualifications, resentments, and ships that not only pass in the night, but never shine their light on another as they do.

Read More Share

Recent Author Posts

Join Our Community

Connect On Social Media

Most Popular Posts

We Blog The World

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!