Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Swoon

Every year there is this wonderful conference called the TED Conference. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. They bring in all these high powered people and they limit the attendees so it could be just for those who are high-falutin' enough to have money and/or connections. But the people at TED are good folk and they put the talks online for everyone to view and there have been so many that I have watched that have informed, entertained and motivated me.

I was checking out the talks from the most recent conference and saw one by a woman, Elizabeth Gilbert, that was about genius. The text stated that it was more about "having" genius than "being" a genius. I watched it and Ms. Gilbert just made me swoon. I think she's pretty and witty and incredibly self-aware. I liked a lot of what she had to say and as I was watching the talk I could think of two things: 1. I HAVE to read her book. 2. Why do I know that name?

Well, before I go on, here's the video:


As I went to find out more about the book I discovered why I knew her. It turns out she had impacted the life of my son years ago. She wrote a book called The Last American Man about a fellow by the name of Eustace Conway. Conway lives off the land out in North Carolina at a place called Turtle Island where, among other things, he holds camps. After reading Gilbert's book, I got information about it and my oldest son went to Conway's camp for two summers, once for a week and once for two weeks. You can check out Turtle Island here. I would suspect that Turtle Island has had the greatest impact on my son's development outside of his immediate family.

So now I'm really starting to adore Ms. Gilbert and I request Eat, Pray, Love. My timing was great as one of the area libraries is using it as a book club book next month. Having read the book, I still adore her but we're not going to be dating or anything anytime soon. Maybe in a previous or future life. I like to think we have a lot in common.

The book is a ridiculously open account of Gilbert's search for herself, spirituality and balance as she went through a "mid-life crisis". Gilbert and her husband went through an ugly divorce that left Gilbert a wreck in many ways. She decides to go to Italy, India and Indonesia in order to find herself and just sort of get away from it all.

Eat, Pray, Love is divided into 108 chapters, 36 for each country and aspect of the book title. 108 has a number of spiritual connotations which is why she does so. The first 36 cover Gilbert's travels to Italy where she indulges herself with good food (Eat). She then goes to India to learn about spirituality through meditation while studying under a guru (Pray). Lastly, she travels to Bali where she strives to find balance, falls in love with a Brazilian man there whom she then marries, and does seem to find happiness within herself (Love).

Gilbert's writing style is fantastic. Her usage of words strikes me as bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anne Lamott, another author whose works I enjoy. Gilbert, though, is just so incredibly open. At times it's almost like reading someone's diary, it's so personal. I even found myself blushing a couple of times. This openness is part of the book's success. By being so open, one can really relate to her and know how she's feeling. I think if she were less open, people would be saying things like "Oh, it must be nice to be able to travel to Italy and gorge yourself in an effort to find happiness". It's because you get to witness her sadness and her guilt and all the negatives as well as all the positives that you can't help but like her and her book, even if you weren't swooning like I was coming into it.

I would find it hard to believe that any woman would not enjoy this book. Men, maybe not so much, in general. There's a definite feminine quality to it that might turn some guys off. For women, especially those who have gone through an identity crisis of their own, I can't think of a more inspirational book.

And yes, for as much as I enjoyed this, I still have Zander's book ahead of it. I had thought I had embedded Zander's TED talk before but I did not so here it is now.

3 comments:

--Transfixed Ingress said...

Cool stuff. Now I'm going to be wasting all sorts of free time watching these darn videos.

--Transfixed Ingress said...

As mentioned I'm wasting all sorts of good free time watching these darn things....

M.G. - think you would appreciate Adam Savage's quest for the dodo (really the last part more than the first) - watching a thought turn into something more, and becoming a total obsession -

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/adam_savage_s_obsessions.html

Johnny Lee's Wii Remote hacks is cool

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/johnny_lee_demos_wii_remote_hacks.html

Watched a few less than memorable ones as well... will note others as they merit

Mark A. said...

Ms. Gilbert spent some time in Knoxville finishing her Eat, Pray, Love book.