Feb 23, 2012

Enjoyable Guilt?

I'm reading a very intense book right now.

By intense, I don't mean action-packed. Au contrair, mon ami.
It is a slow-paced book (set in a time during and following WW2), but the words are intensely poetic and thought-provoking.

I could write about a thousand different lines from the book, but this is what particularly struck me today:

For background:

"I grew up thankful for every necessity, for food and drink....When my parents were liberated, four years before I was born, they found that the ordinary world outside the camp had been eradicated. There was no more simple meal, no thing was less than extraordinary: a fork, a mattress, a clean shirt, a book. Not to mention such things that can make on weep: an orange, meat and vegetables, hot water. There was no ordinariness to return to, no refuge from the blinding potency of things, an apple screaming its sweet juice. Every thing belonged to, had been retrieved from, impossibility..."

Now the line that echoed thoughts frequented by my heart:

"There was no pleasure, for my father, associated with food. It was years before I realized this wasn't merely a psychological difficulty, but also a moral one, for who could answer my father's question: Knowing what he knew, should he stuff himself or starve?"

As a contrast,
"My mother was determined to impress upon me the absolute, inviolate necessity of pleasure....When I witnessed her delight in a colour or a flavour, the most simple gratifications--something sweet, something fresh, a new article of clothing, however humble, her love of warm weather--I didn't disdain her enthusiasm. Instead, I looked again, I tasted again, noticing.
I learned that her gratitude was not in the least inordinate. I know now this was her gift to me. For a long time I thought she had created in me an extreme fear of loss--but no. It's not in the least extreme.

Loss is an edge; it swelled everything for my mother and drained everything from my father. Because of this, I thought my mother was stronger. But now I see it was a clue: what my father had experienced was that much less bearable."

I'll give you a second.

What do you think?

I've wrestled with thoughts like this.

Life is so dang great, eh?

Do you ever feel a touch guilty for everything that you have? (I'm not saying I should. But sometimes I do.)

So what do you do with all you've been given?
Do you stuff yourself or starve? 

By living for pleasure you forget to help out those who aren't so fortunate.
But shouldn't you take advantage of everything you've been given? 
(Whether that be food, knowledge, friends, etc)

By living with guilt of pleasure you forget to recognize or enjoy everything that is marvelous about life.
But sometimes that prick of awareness about another's lack is what can
shift the balance. Cause someone to reach out and expand opportunities for others.

I certainly haven't found the balance in this. I think about it quite a bit though.

So maybe..we don't feel guilty at the enjoyable things in life but we recognize where we've been blessed and try to share?

Staring at a plate of food, we can recognize:
-You are so dang lucky to have that plate of food
-Not eating that food, just because someone else doesn't have food, isn't going to help anybody
-Maybe you can look into ways to help out those who don't have food

Back to the old problem of recognizing that there are sooooo many areas of life where we could help out. Where to start? How to contribute? How to not be excessive in either direction?
How to find the middle ground between stuffing and starving ourselves?

I'm sure I'm overlooking something quite simple.

Oh yeah! And the book I'm reading is called Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels. (Disclaimer: I just stumbled upon some..ahem...adult content in the book. Whoops. Just so you are aware if you wanna read it.  Aaaah. Sorry.)


...Ok, ok. I'll indulge myself by sharing a few more lines from the book that I quite liked :)

"What does the body make us believe? That we're never ourselves until we contain two souls."

"Silence: the response to both emptiness and fullness."

"We think that change occurs suddenly, but even I have learned better. Happiness is wild and arbitrary, but it's not sudden." (This one is from a chapter called "The Gradual Instant." Deep.)

...I'll probably post more parts I liked sometime ha. Too good to keep to myself.


1 comment:

  1. I can never say enough how much I ADORE your blog.