Either/Or: A Study of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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"I'd rather be a sparrow than a snail. / Yes I would. / If I only could, / I surely would. / Away, I'd rather sail away / Like a swan that's here and gone. / A man gets tied-down to the ground. / He gives the world his saddest cry / His saddest cry ..."--a popular song runs something like this, singing of man's deepest desire to flyaway from the ground to which he is tied down. Indeed, it seems to be human beings' fate that the "heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground.,,1 If one could choose a life of lightness abundant with aesthetic beauty and physical enjoyment, who would want to live a life of weight full of ethical burden, duty, and responsibility? However, in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness? (Kundera 5) Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being deals with this question by introducing, at the very beginning, two philosophers' perspcetives on this issue: Nietzche's mysterious eternal return of weight; Parmenides' freedom of positive lightness. One basic element of a burden is its repetition, or eternal return, for if an event only happens once, its effect, whatever it is, will gradually recede fromman's memory and eventually become ineffectual. Nietzsche's idea of eternal return--that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum--implies that "a life which disappears once and for all, which does not return, is like a shadow, without weight, dead in