The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?”
― Milan Kundera,
Remember this book? If you haven’t read it (was a movie also – but to my mind not nearly as good) maybe time to re-read….or read for the first time.
The ‘lightness of being” goes back to Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea of “eternal return.” The idea that our universe and our existence has occurred an infinite number of times in the past, and will continue to occur without end. So here – time is cyclical rather than linear. It’s an ancient idea, but Nietzsche popularized it for modern times. The narrator of Unbearable Lightness refers to it as Nietzsche’s concept.
The consequences of such eternal return (according to Nietzsche) would be “the heaviest weight.” Is it a terrifying concept to imagine that our lives have been and will continue to be repeated endlessly? Could one embrace this weight, rather than be frightened by it? Nietzsche concluded in Thus Spoke Zarathustra that we need to live and act as though our lives functioned in eternal return, because our own lives are given meaning and weight this way. The concept of amor fati means the love of one’s fate. To be able to accept – and even relish eternal return could be seen as the same as loving one’s fate.
If what Nietzsche said rings true, that eternal return gives our lives a sense of weight, then it would stand to reason that if our lives just occurred once, they are filled with lightness. This is where Kundera’s phrase einmal ist keinmal comes in. He translates this as: “What happens but once, might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all”
Only living once, we can never compare the decisions we make to any alternatives. If we can never compare different outcomes, we can never know if the decisions we made are correct or not, which means we can never judge them properly or take responsibility for them. So to live only once is to live with lightness.
Aside: I love coffee. I mean I REALLY love coffee. But sometimes, when I am settling down with a book, or a intense movie, or a stretch of wandering around SL, I want a small pot of freshly brewed tea – and a lovely teacup to drink it from. My favorite tea of late is Scottish Breakfast Tea – said to be the strongest of all the breakfasts (Irish & English being the other two). Maybe that is why I am always on the lookout for strange and or beautiful teacups in SL. Sometimes simple, sometimes ornate….always satisfying.