Literature17 Nov 2009 04:20 pm
Milan Kundera’s masterpiece, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (1984), chronicles the lives of three characters through the Prague Spring, the August 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and its aftermath. The novel grapples with the concept of “eternal return” (also known as “eternal recurrence”), which posits that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur ad infinitum, in a self-similar form. This concept is rooted in Indian and Egyptian philosophy, and was taken up by the Pythagoreans and Stoics. However, with fall of antiquity and the spread of Christianity, the concept of “eternal return” was gradually lost. However, “eternal return” was given a second life by Friedrich Nietzsche, who believed that it furnished man with a reason to affirm life in the face of a world without God.
From Nietzsche’s perspective, the embracing of “eternal recurrence” required amor fati “love of fate.”
“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants to have nothing different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely to bear the necessary, still less to conceal it–all idealism is mendaciousness before the necessary–but to love it.”
Kundera both builds on and challenges Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence by suggesting that each person has only one life to live, and that the occurrences in one’s life shall never occur again-thus the “lightness” of being, because individual human decision do not have universal significance. However, the insignificance of our decisions-the essence of our being- causes great human suffering every human being wants to believe that their lives have transcendent meaning. Thus, our insignificance is ultimately experienced as unbearable.
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