Sunday, June 10, 2007

Authenticity

So I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love . It ends with the obligatory happy ending, where she meets a new love in Bali and it looks like they’re going live a Happily Ever After ending, where they globetrot the world together, and that’s annoying to the single female writer in Los Angeles. But I have to say, I’m glad I read this book when I did, because all the empowerment talk of letting go of the past, and teaching yourself to be your own admiral of your boat, and to actively seek out peace to restore your own soul has really been helping me.

Here’s an excerpt:

I keep remembering one of my Guru’s teachings about happiness. She says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive on it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the word looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessing. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.

The Christian version of this is that Happiness, i.e. Inner Peace doesn’t come from God whacking you with the Inner Peace Stick. It’s a spiritual fruit, the result of a life pursuing God’s will, la la la.

But reading Eat, Pray, Love certainly makes one want to jet off to Bali, where apparently the lodging is cheaper than cheap, the population is filled with people who can heal your physical pain, interpret your dreams, give you physical or metaphorical talismans that will help you find love, help you find the answers to fill the hole in your soul, (all the things God’s supposed to do, but hasn’t yet), all the men are devastatingly attractive, and you will find your true love there, oh yes, you will.

But then I can’t help but think that if I went to Bali now, that the countryside would be overrun with single American women just like me who had the exact same feeling when they read the book. If you’re holding the book in your hands, that wave of opportunity to explore a soul-stirring paradise has passed, and you should have ridden it when she did, back in 2003. I was getting my self-esteem stomped on in 2003 by assorted guys and crappy bosses. Obviously in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Elizabeth Gilbert says that one of her best qualities is that she can make friends with anyone in anyplace, at any time, which is one of the primary job qualifications you have to have in order to be a travel writer, (which is where she started.) I don’t have that quality at all. I am not a people person, I am a people WATCHER. With a really short attention span. One of my great qualities is taming kooky bosses (not crappy ones), how is that going to help me in a foreign country? So I’m not sure jetting off anywhere would be the most beneficial thing I could do, especially with not having a steady job to fill the bank account. The flip side of it, is of course, is once you get the steady job, you really can’t go anywhere, so if you think this is what you need to do, if you really think you have to go someplace else, you better do it now.

And I don’t feel the call. I feel a reluctant oh I guess so to get out of L.A., but it’s not a burning itch that would signal a call. It’s more of a drowsy someone come in and take control of my life and force me to do the things I don’t have the strength or desire to do myself. Like wanting someone else to have the call for me, and drag me to it.

But certainly, I think one of the first steps would be to try and pursue happiness here in Los Angeles. Elizabeth Gilbert fills page after page of how she did this, that and the other in Italy, India, and Indonesia. The food is always wonderful (except for one incident of greasy Pad Thai), the environment is always stunning. If she came to L.A., would she find ANY rapturous food (that mere mortals can afford?) Any surroundings that would provoke bliss? Is there a real authentic experience to be had in Los Angeles? Maybe a summer night at the Hollywood Bowl, but outside of that, L.A. seems to be strangely devoid of transcendent experience. Nobody comes here to vacation, you know. I think it’s very telling that the only thing terrorists have plotted and failed to blow up in Los Angeles is the airport. ‘Cause there’s not a lot else in Los Angeles that you could destroy and bum people out about. You really gotta work at creating transcendence here. Work for your bliss.

So I try. I decide I’m gonna hit the beach. Santa Monica Beach isn’t the cleanest beach around, but it’s still a beach, and it’s got a pier, and I know the hidden places to park, so I’ll start there. Maybe hit a different beach every weekend until I find one I like.

Albino me has no interest in sunbathing, but I like walking on the beach, so I wait until the sun is later in the sky, and trek out. It feels like I should have some raging burning life question I need to talk to God about and settle once and for all. Something like Should I move away? Should I give up writing? Should I stop writing for zombies and write for Veggietales? But I know the answers to all of that is no, no, and no. And I’m trying hard not to ask questions I know the answers to already.

But maybe this IS the authentic experience in Los Angeles. Walking around and asking questions to God/The Universe/Whatever Higher Power You Believe In that you already know the answers to. There’s a shitload of questioning people in the Los Angeles population. I bet a lot of them know the answers already.

It’s taking action to make those answers happen that people need help with. We’re all so LAZY, more willing to mope around in our narcissistic pit o’ me. So I’m steeling myself to try again. And again. And keep trying until it happens for me. With God’s help.

Margaritas also help for an authentic experience in L.A., especially if they’re at the restaurant at the end of the pier. Catching the mariachi band on a coffee break before they start the next round of singing is funny too.

2 comments:

Allison said...

I'm with you! Vacation always feels fake to me. It's actual life that's authentic and invigorating.

Well, actual life and One Tree Hill.

Richard T said...

There are a few things in LA I really love that feel unique to here. One, as you mentioned, is the Bowl. To be sure! I also love the Observatory in Griffith Park. It's a beautiful building, for starters, with mosaics and murals and actual *architecture*. But beyond that, the view at night is really, really lovely. And very LA. Check out the beach at Point Dume--quiet and very pretty. The Huntington Library is absolutely one of my favorite places in LA. Maybe the best of them all. It doesn't feel like you're anywhere near a city, for starters. You're surrounded by all kinds of plants. And while the museum in nice, if nothing to write home about, the library is worth the price of the ticket. Anyone in LA who needs to get away for a short bit but doesn't have a lot of time or money--go there. And remember what the city might have been like 70 years back. You can walk around the gardens or sit and have some coffee and catch your breath. In fact...I think it's time for me to go back there again....