Watched Eat Pray Love last night (watch online, direct link). It is interesting, though I do kinda agree with the review in Bitch magazine that called the book ‘Eat Pray Spend’. They were perhaps unkind call it ‘Wealthy, Whiny, White’. In this story, a woman leaves a marriage that makes her unhappy, goes to Italy to eat good food, goes to India to learn meditation, then goes to Bali to learn from a medicine man and find love. While what she finds is interesting, the whole trip is underwritten by a book publisher, a fact which is completely unexplained in the film. As such, it makes interesting viewing, with some insights here and there, but there is little actual struggle against the odds in the film. It’s mostly a struggle within herself which, to people that actually struggle, may seem spoilt.
At the core, however, the story does address suffering, which everyone goes through, and which even the Buddha left a comfortable existence to find a way out of. So I think there’s something there. The movie however, may not quite get it. It is beautiful, everything in it is beautiful, and her suffering never gets externalized into film as something real. The Buddha saw sickness, old age and death, but Julia Roberts character was merely unhappy in a marriage and felt unfulfilled. Her main problem seems to be too much money, too much time and not knowing what to do. While this is a real problem, it’s not exactly universal.
In the end the movie is an entertaining, but not, I would say, especially spiritually informative. I think most people feel that if they had a year of paid vacation in Italy, India and Bali, they would be happy. As in, yes the ability to eat great food, learn meditation and meet rich Brazilian factory owners might lead to a satisfying life. It is somewhat unclear if this is spiritualism, or just spiritual tourism. From watching the movie, it feels like the latter, though I may just be jealous.
There is an option that Western people do have to pay a lot for, simply because they don’t necessarily have a social category for the spiritual. Protestant religion is also a work ethic, but there’s no accepted category for someone that just goes off and seeks. It is less and less in the East, but I do know people who’ve left being web designers or whatever and gone of to a monastery. On one level it is that there are mediation retreats three hours away, but it’s also socially supported to seek. In the West if you have everything you’re supposed to be happy, and they often lack a spiritual salve to deal with the suffering that persists even amidst material plenty. So, in that sense, I think her quest is interesting and worthy, though in the movie it comes off as a bit self-indulgent and vain. Would I have her being self-indulgent and vain in New York though? If you can, then why not do. Everyone suffers in their own way, and this was one woman’s way out of it. Perhaps one need not look at the price tag.