You cannot capture time. You cannot push it forward, pause it, or rewind. It is neither tangible nor visible. So how do we measure it? Is it something that we need to measure? We spend so much of our time on earth worrying about the past, or worrying about what is yet to come—both things we cannot control. Sometimes, through all this worrying, it is easy to forget about the present. I don’t want to live like this. I don’t want to travel through life and discover one day that I never even lived—never took the time to relish in the simply pleasures around me. I believe it is not only important to try to live this way, but also love this way. Like life, we cannot predict the fate of love and we cannot change our love’s past. So why not love as best we can in a particular moment, the person we love for them at that particular moment? Reflecting on her “monkey mind” Gilbert writes, “If you’re looking for union with the divine, this kind of forward/backward whirling is a problem. There’s a reason they call God a presence—because God is right here, right now. In the present is the only place to find Him, and now is the only time” (132). Although Gilbert sees the “forward/backward” relationship of time as a problem with finding divinity, it can be applied to her quest in life and love as well—her purpose for traveling.
Tonight my mother undertook a major surgery. Having a medical-malpractice-caused rare blood type, my mother’s surgery became much more complicated for my family. Over 500 miles away I can see my father’s face as he waits patiently in the waiting room—pacing back-and-forth. My sister has informed me that the procedure, an estimated hour and half, was conducted over five and half hours, due to some unexpected complications. Thankfully my mother is alright. She knew nothing of the complications, or of the extended length of her procedure. (In fact, she probably won’t retain much of anything till tomorrow.) Speaking with my sister afterwards, we both found ourselves sympathizing with my father, who did not leave the waiting room for a mere second. Like my mother, who couldn’t eat before her surgery, he also didn’t eat all day. He was by her side the moment she woke up, still nervous, refusing to let go of her hand. It is in times like these that I am reminded of the simple pleasures; the moments that we tend to take for granted. We cannot predict things like “complications.” I don’t want to have any regrets.
Gilbert’s novel is more than a travel memoir—a collection of fabulously exotic tales. Through her quest she develops her own self-identity, but she also uncovers some philosophically insightful advice for her readers. Gilbert examines the inner “workings” of humanity. In particular, I enjoyed her opinion on the purpose for seeking rituals and religion:
“We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down” (187). Throughout Gilbert’s time in India she seems to do just this, create a “safe resting place” for the emotions of her past and the fear of her future. It is during these feelings of extreme “joy or trauma” that Gilbert seems to pray the most and, isn’t this when we all pray the most? I also connected with her view of karma. Gilbert writes,
“The karmic philosophy appeals to me on a metamorphic level because even in one lifetime it’s obvious how often we must repeat our same mistakes, banging out heads against the same old additions and compulsions, generating the same old miserable and often catastrophic consequences, until we can finally say stop and fix it” (262).
I sympathize with Gilbert in her karmic philosophy, or should I say, karmic behavior. It is human nature to be habitual and thus, caught-up in the same routines and “repeat our same mistakes.” Although Gilbert resents her attachment to male bonding, she finds herself returning to men (or more accurately to love) as an “old addition.” The question Gilbert seeks and we all should ask is, what drives this addiction? Is it our fears of something in the future? Is it a desire to return to a familiar and comfortable past? Time is not a linear path. Whether we like it or not, it seems to constantly shape our present.