About four or five months ago now, I read the book Eat Pray Love. I had heard many things about it, and when I encountered it at our local library, I thought I would read it and decide for myself.
Fast forward to the present, and the movie has hit the big screen. Eat Pray Love is being hyped everywhere from promotions at World Market, to a sweepstakes in which you can win a trip to Italy through Kohl’s department store, to women taking “self-discovery” trips a la Miss Gilbert.
And I find it all painfully empty.
Eat Pray Love is the story of Elizabeth Gilbert’s travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia in search of “everything”. It is very well-written…beautifully so, actually, is very entertaining, and the descriptions of her travels and the people she encountered left me wanting to travel as well. So for those reasons, I get the appeal of this book. But after I finished reading it (and often in the middle of it), I felt overwhelming sadness for Miss Gilbert. And as I begin to go into why, I feel the need to state up front that this post is not intended to be a condemnation of her in the slightest- I have great respect for her as a writer and love for her as a person. She appears to have a kind heart, a sharp intellect, and a desire to help others. I admire all of those attributes.
One of my biggest issues with this book is found from the very beginning. Miss Gilbert divorces her husband because she is no longer in love with him, doesn’t want children, and thinks there must be more to life. While this decision is lauded by many readers as brave and exciting, it is, in essence, indulgent. To be fair, I don’t know all the ins and outs of her marriage, and to her credit, Miss Gilbert does not subject her readers to all the terrible things about her ex-husband. I do know, however, that marriage isn’t intended to be something tossed aside for such reasons as those given in the book. However, since it is God’s word that teaches us that marriage is meant to last until the couple is parted by death, and is a covenant between the man, woman, and God, I wouldn’t expect her to necessarily view marriage the way I do, as she is not a Christian.
I did find her view of Christians ironic (and sometimes offensive). There are multiple instances where she shares how important it is to be open-minded in matters of spirituality, and this is of course evident as she explores and develops her own spiritual beliefs. Miss Gilbert is in strong disagreement that there is only one path to God, subtly scoffing at the Christian belief that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). She is obviously very welcome to disagree with this viewpoint, but what bothered me was her contempt for those that hold this viewpoint. For someone emphasizing having an open-mind, her response to the Christian view was quite intolerant.
But the topics of divorce and scorn towards Christians for our “narrow views” were not what bothered me about this book.
It was the lack of peace. My take on Eat Pray Love was not so much that Miss Gilbert was on a search for “everything”, but rather, that she was searching for peace. In the first half of the book, it is made clear by Miss Gilbert herself that she doesn’t feel peace. As I finished the last page however, after reading of her adventures with gelato, Italian food, and more gelato in Italy, an ashram in India, and a medicine man in Indonesia, it became clear to me that she still hadn’t found peace. The most heartbreaking of all portions of the book for me was the portion in India, where she speaks most of her spiritual experiences in the ashram while in deep meditative trances. What she described felt purely demonic to me and seemed to leave her feeling even more disturbed than she did before, but whether I am right or wrong on that, she acknowledges herself that she didn’t feel peace during many of those times.
I wish Miss Gilbert had discovered Christ on her journey. John 14:27 states, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Perhaps anyone reading this that is not a Christian will shake their head at my audacity to state that I know the source of true peace, and that that source is Jesus. If only they, and Miss Gilbert herself, could recognize that the Christian’s assurance that there is only one way is made out of not only truth, but love. If only they understood that when you possess the most wonderful gift in the world, it would be the utmost selfishness to refuse to share it with others. I have peace in Christ, and it is the most precious of gifts. I long more and more for others to have this gift as well.
I know she is now married to the man she meets at the end of Eat Pray Love (they only got married so that he could move to the U.S. with her- she has just recently begun to revise her views on marriage, which is the topic of her more recent book, Committed), and I would imagine Elizabeth Gilbert would state that she is happy now. But I can’t help but wonder if there is still a small hole, deep down inside of her, that hasn’t been filled despite her creative and even exciting efforts to fill it.
I am frustrated over the number of women that hold this book as an ideal to achieve and have left behind family, careers, etc. to achieve it. I have no problem with being adventurous and spontaneous, and traveling is something I wish I had done more of before having children. Yet the desire for so many to find fulfillment through this process is concerning. Overall, this book left me feeling both despondent and grateful. Despondent due to the emptiness that Elizabeth Gilbert and others that she encountered on her journey for “everything” seemed to feel, and grateful that my journey led to Christ, who now travels the rest of the way with me.