Most marriages are strong enough to survive the problems that couples face, but not all of them can withstand the battle over the TV remote control. Will the man keep a tight reign on the remote and use it to check SportsCenter every ten minutes? Or will he become a meek prisoner of Glee and Dancing with the Stars? My wife and I are quite proud of our egalitarian TV watching conduct, and if one of us is sick then that person always gets to choose the program. When she was ill last week I assumed that we would be checking out a Colin Firth film or a British period piece, but this time it was Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts.
Since I’m a Christian, you probably would expect me to nitpick the theology and complain that it’s not compatible with my faith, but I’m not going to do that because I’d rather focus on what we can learn from the story. (However, as I expected, the film tries to respect Eastern and Western religions in order to be Universal, but ends up trying to force the mutually exclusive concepts of pantheism and panentheism into the same worldview in order to meet this goal. I expect no better from Hollywood screenwriters – par for the course, really – but there is still plenty to learn from the movie.)
The main character, Liz, is burned out. She isn’t happy with her life, and she tells everyone that she needs a radical change of some sort. Her friends are skeptical and tell her that she just needs a vacation or a new outfit or something to occupy her mind until her depression passes. But Liz knows better – she knows that she is not suffering an affliction of the mind, but one of the soul. It is spiritual renewal that she seeks, and in the first part of the story she learns that she can’t find this through a new home and a new boyfriend.
And this is where the film speaks to us. I applaud the movie for admitting that there is more to a human being than just the body; we have a spiritual component that must be seen to, and when that part of us is needy we cannot remedy it through physical things. It is human nature to seek fulfillment in Higher Things, and that is the purpose of Liz’s journey.
We don’t deny ourselves food when we are hungry – likewise, let us not neglect our souls. That is the lesson to be learned from Eat, Pray, Love. It’s also filled with eating montages and a scene where two skinny girls pretend to understand what it’s like to gain weight and not fit into their (size zero) jeans. But it also reminds us to look after our spiritual side, and I can respect that.