Liz Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love differs from most of the other readings in the course thus far in that if I were to categorize it, I would probably put it under non-fiction or memoir rather than humor. While Tyler Perry and Amy Sedaris' books seemed to focus on humor and let that humor shed light on life, Gilbert's book seems to focus on life and let humor act as an aid in making a really heavy message a little easier to swallow.
It's not easy to talk about divorces, breakups, a slightly-before-mid-life crisis, and the often painful recovery that comes with it. Humor serves as an aid both in allowing Gilbert to talk about these difficult but valuable life-defining situations and in allowing the reader to make connections to the difficulties in his/her own life.
The ability of humor to deflect pain and suffering is an aspect that we have explored in studying David Sedaris' and Perry's work. This aspect of humor is again apparent in Gilbert's novel, but seems to operate a little differently. In Perry and Sedaris, the humor somewhat hides the pain, the reader has to read a little more closely, look a little deeper to find it. In Eat, Pray, Love, the pain is readily apparent from the beginning, but humor serves to dull the edge. While it's not quite clear how the writers accomplish this, the intent does seem to have some relevance. While Perry and Sedaris seek to expose and explore pain, Gilbert is trying to heal.
Through her struggles, Gilbert comes to realize her life calling or highest purpose. In defining my highest purpose, I have had a lot of difficulty. Is my highest purpose my ultimate professional goal? If so, then I guess it is my highest purpose to be a lawyer. I currently plan to be a public defender, and while helping those who can't afford legal defense is important to me, I would not say that this, on its own is my highest purpose. My father has mentioned a few times that there is a difference between what I do and who I am. I have taken this teaching to heart and recently I realized that my highest purpose is to be present and to be well-rounded.
After a semester that didn't quite meet my expectations academically, I really focused on school this semester in an effort to improve. Unfortunately, this didn't work as it only cause me to lose touch with friends and family, stress unnecessarily over school, and actually perform even more poorly in my classes, and generally felt down. Since I realized that this strategy wasn't quite working out for me, I have tried hard to be more present and engaged with the people around me, and I have begun to exercise more. The lesser emphasis I put on school has reduced my stress significantly, and I have actually started to get better grades in my classes.
My hope is that I can continue to live in the present for the rest of my life. I don't want to always be thinking about tomorrow and the next day and the next. I don't want to miss my kids' childhoods. I want to know my friends.
The idea of defining a highest purpose is an interesting one because it makes it seem as if there's one thing that's more important than all the others for every individual. Personally, I don't think that this is a healthy view of life. Whenever I have focused on one "highest purpose" in my life, I have found that it has come at the expense of all other areas of my life.
My highest purpose is definitely hybrid. I can say that I have a highest professional purpose of defending the less wealthy as a public defender. I have a highest social purpose of being a good friend and boyfriend. I have a highest academic purpose of doing well in school. As I said, my highest purpose is to be well rounded, and I have found that the best way to accomplish this is to always try to be present in the situation at hand, not always planning for the future or lamenting and celebrating the past.