I don’t mean to bash Elizabeth Gilbert. I actually enjoy her writing. I also saw (on youtube) a speech she made for the 2009 TED Conference about nurturing creativity. One of the many things she talked about is the idea of genius, and how back in Roman times they thought of genius as an actual thing—a being. Each artist had their own genius, which usually lived somewhere in their house, perhaps in a corner in the back room. If the artist were to be a success, it would be partly due to the help of the genius. If success was unattainable, it was not all their fault. It was their crappy and inept genius that was to blame.
I like this idea of genius. We try the best we can and the only way we can achieve success, in art or in life, is with the help of others. Surely we can be the lone source of failure, but I think that perhaps we’re listening to our tricky little genius in the corner. Next time, we’ll make a better choice.
My beef with Eat, Pray, Love is its transformation from memoir to self-help for the masses. I’m sure that is not what Elizabeth Gilbert intended for her work. But by coming to the party late in the game, I’m unable to read it without the presence of something other than genius in the room. I feel the presence of meaning. As though each section is supposed to have meaning in my life as well. Perhaps I can find meaning, but that feels very touchy-feely. Instead, here is my mantra: I like to eat. I don’t pray. Love is everywhere around me.
I don’t discount prayer. I know that Khary prayed daily during the months following Aja’s birth. Perhaps he still does. I just don’t find solace in prayer. For me it conjures up memories of forced family counseling sessions (a punishment for getting caught stealing with my girlfriends). It was 1989 and the town was still recovering from the Loma Prieta Earthquake. I remember looking up at the ceiling and praying for another earthquake just to get me out of that room. It didn’t work. Later, when the counselor wanted to see in me a session by myself, I brought a book and read. For an hour. Without looking up or answering any of her questions.
That was our last session.
Writing is the thing that quiets my mind. If I were to ever write a memoir (I say facetiously) I hope that it ends up being rewritten into a graphic novel, because I think my girls would be awesome little superheroes.
Kick, Your, Ass.