I have found the book “Eat, Pray, Love” deeply perturbing for a variety of reasons. This article, “Eat, Pray, Spend”, in Bitch Magazine today explained a lot of the reasons in a way I hadn’t tried to articulate yet.
In a nutshell, the book sells this new regime of spending for enlightenment that only wealthy (and a lot of time white) women are able to pursue.
Also, I thought it was pretty scripted in that Elizabeth Gilbert pitched her idea to her publisher BEFORE she went on the trip, and her publisher gave her a payment towards the novel because they liked the “script” (and because a divorced (read: free) woman who throws away her antidepressants and travels the world looking for enlightenment by spending in all of the right places seemed like something that could be easily sold to the public).
What bothers me the most about the book whenever it crops up is the anti-serendipity (to coin a word) of the whole excursion. We travel the world to meet people and to learn something about ourselves, and sometimes we have an idea about how things will turn out. We hope we’ll find enlightenment under this or that rock and we have a bit of an idea where we want to look, but we can’t script our lives in the ways that are being sold here. The whole new age modern movement likes to make is seem as if we can change everything in our lives. That we have complete control over people and places. That if something goes wrong (a rape, a mugging, losing your job) it was somehow something we intrinsically (without knowing it) used our subconscious to create.
I believe we are in control of a lot more than we think, but all in all, the world is somewhat unpredictable. It is chaos that has an order of which we know nothing. So, (chaos theory aside) I just don’t put stock in the whimsical journey of a wealthy white woman endorsed by Oprah. If she wrote and pitched the book after her sojourn instead of going on the sojourn with writing the book being her goal (and making it seem as if it was all serendipitous) I’m sure my annoyance would dial down a notch or two, but the premise would still bother me. Why can’t we find enlightenment right here, where we are, while eating the same oatmeal for breakfast we’ve been eating for years? Why not make a non-abusive marriage work? Why not improve the world immediately around you. Build a community. Start a garden. Help kids learn to read. Start a soup kitchen.
This modern idea that in order to succeed and be happy we have to throw caution to the wind, sell all our belongings and travel the world meeting with hot Italian men and milking sacred Indian cows is a total farce. It’s a modern peasants-watching-kings scenario. In this scenario a dream that can’t be bought by the average Joe is played again and again. It feeds on itself with the money from those who can’t afford what they’re being told will save their lives and get them out of the boring, normal, sane existence they are so un-smitten with (to make up another word).
Untruths and double speak galore. The sun shines on every continent (usually) and doesn’t take a license to bask in. Go play. Travel on your own agenda. Keep your money in your pockets people.