Thursday, July 18, 2013
The Sweetness of Life – Françoise Héritier
There are many self-help books out there in the world. Some purport to tell you how to live your life, while others teach you how to manage your money. But once in a while, you’ll find a book that tells you the importance of enjoying life; of really being in touch with your inner self on a level that brings you pure joy. The first book that made me think like that was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. But just recently I read The Sweetness of Life by Françoise Héritier & saw how this concept of real joy could really be experienced through words.
Héritier is Emeritus Professor at the College de France & is usually writing books on anthropology. She got an idea to write a book about the simple things that bring about the ‘sweetness in life’ when her psychologist apologized for taking a ‘stolen’ holiday for a week.
This inspired her to think about who was stealing what? If he felt so guilty about living his life, didn’t that mean that it was actually work that was actually stealing his life from him? That it was work that was keeping him from experiencing the smaller things that make up the essence of life. So she asked him & herself one simple question; “how much time is left for the average person to enjoy those activities that are the sweetness of life?”
So she writes about all the small & big experiences that amaze & astound her every day. From smaller things like ‘collecting mulberries’ or ‘phone calls made with no reason’ or ‘feeling your heart leap to bigger experiences like ‘seeing a pair of lions silently cross the trail in moonlight’ or ‘seeing Fujiyama or Kilimanjaro’ or the slightly hedonistic ‘sitting in the sun in the Piazza Navona in Rome in February while you eat a rocket salad & drink a glass of Orvieto’
While it’s easy to feel guilty about all the things you’re missing out on from this book; the other angle is that we need to start giving more attention to the things around us that we take for granted. It’s like the asthmatic patient who can help us understand the value of every breath.
This book struck a special chord with me because I remember how my first job in retail was depriving me of life. I finally quit the job when I missed the birth & 1st birthday of my younger niece; two experiences that I can never repeat.
This concept of slowing down & seeing the beauty of everyday maybe an easier concept to grasp for us who are older but it is true nonetheless. This beautiful, imaginative, evocative book is a wonderful up-close look into the collage that is our life. Or maybe it is a gorgeous book with visual imagery that spells out how to slow down, smell the roses, and feel the mystery & majesty that is our life.
TL;DR version: You can use this book as a bucket list of all the things & experiences you must aim for before you cannot feel them anymore.