Life Significance in The Unbearable Lightness of Being
In Milan Kundera’s (2004) The Unbearable Lightness of Being, there is the distinction between lightness and heaviness, using the philosophy of Nietzsche about heaviness and eternal return. At the start of the novel, there is question if there is a supposed weight attributed to life, and whether humans are given a second chance to try out a different path from what has been taken in the past.
For it is by taking two paths that humans are given the distinction on which one abides true meaning as compared to the other. It is by comparison that they are able to distinguish which one they prefer, whether they choose a life reflected by a lightness of being, or one that reflects heaviness of being. But what exactly did Kundera meant when he used the phrase “lightness of being” in the novel?
Based on the article of E.L. Doctorow (1984), what Kundera meant when he used the phrase lightness of being was “a life so lacking in commitment or fidelity or moral responsibility to anyone else as to be unattached to the real earth” (p.1). This is seen in one of the characters in the novel: Sabina who lives by disloyalty and infidelity, while abandoning her family, friends, and lovers as if separated from the world. Unlike Teresa, who was loyal and faithful to her husband, Sabina on the other hand chooses to leave her lover, Franz, because she finds him dismal and would rather prefer one who is violent. There is no commitment in Sabina, no fidelity nor moral responsibility that would engage her to be more faithful to her lover, Franz. There is a lightness of being in Sabina, so that life appears to show no significance—no meaning—so that in the end, life becomes too unbearable.
Between lightness and heaviness, it is evident how advantageous it would be for a person to live a life filled with a heaviness of being, since there is the presence of fidelity, commitment, and responsibility that give essence or significance to life. Without these three, there is no meaning in life, for it is by commitment and responsibility that attachment becomes possible, leading to life and love, as well as importance to life itself.
Doctorow, E.L. (1984). “Four Characters Under Two Tyrannies.” The New York Times. Retrieved August 5, 2016 from https://www.nytimes.com/books/98/05/17/specials/kundera-unbearable.html.
Kundera, M. (2004). The Unbearable Lightness of Being (20th anniversary ed.). Trans. Michael Henry Heim. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Print.
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