I'm excited for our discussion of Eat Pray Love, the story of Liz Gilbert's one year journey abroad in search of herself, God and balance. The following is taken from the Penquin discussion guide, accessible here. The website also contains a good introduction and an interview with author Liz Gilbert. My additions to the discussion guide are in bold.
1. After imagining a petition to God for divorce, an exhausted Gilbert answers her phone to news that her husband has finally signed. During a moment of quietude before a Roman fountain, she opens her Louise Glück collection to a verse about a fountain, one reminiscent of the Balinese medicine man’s drawing. After struggling to master a 182-verse daily prayer, she succeeds by focusing on her nephew, who suddenly is free from nightmares. Do these incidents of fortuitous timing signal fate? Cosmic unity? Coincidence? How do you feel about spiritual experiences that take place outside of a Christian context? How do you respond emotionally and intellectual to non-Christians who share their spiritual experiences with you?
2. Gender roles come up repeatedly in Eat, Pray, Love
, be it macho Italian men eating cream puffs after a home team’s soccer loss, or a young Indian’s disdain for the marriage she will be expected to embark upon at age eighteen, or the Balinese healer’s sly approach to male impotence in a society where women are assumed responsible for their childlessness. How relevant is Gilbert’s gender? What was your emotional response to Gilbert's decision to prioritize being true to herself over marriage, having children and living a conventional life? Did her choice to leave her marriage and not to have children effect your impression of Gilbert as a woman?
3. In what ways is spiritual success similar to other forms of success? How is it different? Can they be so fundamentally different that they’re not comparable?
4. Gilbert mentions her ease at making friends, regardless of where she is. At one point at the ashram, she realizes that she is too sociable and decides to embark on a period of silence, to become the Quiet Girl in the Back of the Temple. It is just after making this decision that she is assigned the role of ashram key hostess. What does this say about honing one’s nature rather than trying to escape it? Do you think perceived faults can be transformed into strengths rather than merely repressed? How has accepting who you are liberated you to minister to others?
5. Sitting in an outdoor café in Rome, Gilbert’s friend declares that every city—and every person—has a word. Rome’s is “sex,” the Vatican’s “power”; Gilbert declares New York’s to be “achieve,” but only later stumbles upon her own word, antevasin, Sanskrit for “one who lives at the border.” What is your word? Is it possible to choose a word that retains its truth for a lifetime? What do you think Jesus' word is? Do you think this idea is similar to the special name believers are given in the book of revelation? How do the words and names we receive (from others, God and ourselves) impact who we are and who we become?
(edited to change format)
Labels: Book Discussions, Gender Issues, International Experiences, Spiritual Formation