Ruin is a gift.
“Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”
This is the quote that got glued in my mind after seeing the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” with my dear Gia, one year ago. And as the movie shows, ruin is also the road to finding your soul mate and your happiness. Gilbert’s story of self-ruin and subsequent self-transformation is stunning, but it is also extreme. After divorcing her husband she leaves all that she knows to travel and find herself. She devotes a year of her life to eating and praying and loving, all ways of exploring her own personal ruins and rebuilding her life.
I recommend watching the movie in the cinema, the landscapes are great, but there are also online options, like for example you can see the full movie at this link (the quote from above is in the scene from Rome, when she visits the ruins of the old Roman Empire)
Today, thinking of how much iAdmire the mindset of failing forward, feeling that my life is somehow in a ruin or at least in a big unbalance and close to ruin from certain points of view, I recalled the movie and I searched for the draft post that I was writing on 17th of October 2010, as soon as I saw the movie….this post saw the publishing light only now because it needed time to mature or maybe me being surrounded or getting through a similar moment …and for this reason, I find these ideas so much more precious to me, for they are matured like a good wine.
Why ruin is a gift? Because ruin takes you back to your foundations, clears the damaged and faulty craftsmanship and gives space and opportunity for building something better. If you have doubts and think this happens only in movies…well this movie is a biography of the author….and if you are still not convinced, hear the story of J.K. Rowlings, Harry Potter’s author and why she consider failure has benefits.
But even if this is true, when experiencing ruin in our lives very few of us can be as light hearted and serene as Julia Robert’s character, Elizabeth Gilbert, when saying that “Ruin is a gift” in Eat Pray Love. The most common approach in the face of ruin is more like Steve Martin in “The Jerk”. As soon as he had lost it all, he attempts a dramatic exit, saying things like…” All I need is this phone. This phone and this lamp. This phone and this lamp and this chair”… And so on, until just like Steve’s character, you find yourself in this awkward moment almost out of the door but trying to take as many bits and pieces of our previous life with us.
Personally, if there is something that I would need to take out of a ruined situation, those would be people, friends, not objects. I need this friend and this friend and this warm heart and thoughtful soul next to me in my life…and this wise friend and this critical friend …and I could go on with this list…people are the ones that I need, even though I have many things around and I would hate to throw away or lose some of them…but I realize I would hate it more for practical reasons, financial reasons, not willing to replace the objects, since only a few have really emotional reasons attached to it.
Ruin is also an important biblical reference. The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians:
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
For a spiritually or religiously inclined person, this can be the moment to turn towards spirituality and religion. As this article says:
Ruin can feel like “escaping through the flames” and the pain can be intense watching everything we’ve built ourselves through self-confidence, self-pity, self-reliance and a whole other host of “self” words crumble to the ground until we are left with only the foundations. It is at this point we have a choice. We can start again using those same building methods or we can open ourselves to God (often we are so broken at this point we are open to the help) and allow Him to build something better.
For Julia Roberts’ character, spirituality meant meeting with indian gurus. The word GURU is composed of 2 Sanskrit syllables: “Darkness” and “Light.” Out of the darkness and into the light. As she said in the movie:
“Destiny, I feel, is also a relationship – a play between divine grace and willful self-effort.”
“There’s a crack (or cracks) in everyone…that’s how the light of God gets in.”
“Look for God. Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water.”
“I want God to play in my bloodstream the way sunlight amuses itself on the water.”
“Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I’m aiming for, how will it ever occur? Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention. If you don’t have this, all your pleas and desires are boneless, floppy, inert; they swirl at your feet in a cold fog and never lift.”
“Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be… a prudent insurance policy.”
“There is a reason they call God a presence – because God is right here, right now. In the present is the only place to find Him, and now is the only time.”
“We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.”
“Zen masters say you cannot see your reflection in running water, only in still water.”
“Om Namah Shivaya, meaning,
I honor the divinity that resides within me.”
Just to understand better this Om Namah Shivaya, see this wonderful video with the Om Nama mantra sang by an amazingly talented singer named Spring that I personally met in Munich
There are some more thoughts and reflections that I got after seeing and thinking of Eat Pray Love. I can truly relate to them and these are truly encouraging for me whenever I feel that I am in a ruined moment of my life. I hope it can bring healing and help for you as well:
- creation sometimes needs ruin to allow construction of something better.
- sometimes, things fall apart so that better things can fall together
- order is born from chaos, without it, there would be no need for order.
- though times test your ability to get back on track, to rebuild yourself like a Phoenix bird from its own ashes
- the ruin moments are some of the most creative and full of opportunities that you can have in your life, it is a creative ruin unraveling the best in yourself.
- questions must arise in our lives and minds in orders for answers to come and to be received and understood.
If you didn’t saw “Eat, Pray, Love” yet, here’s my opinion. This simple understanding and realization – that a good worthy life contains moments of meaningful destruction, disorder, chaos, poetic ruin and rubble – is worth more, far more, than the cinema ticket to see the movie. Not to mention that the movie is good, the scenery is amazingly taking you in dream places from Italy, India and Indonesia (for the great scenery images, go to cinema!) and Julia Roberts is not disappointing at all. So I recommend you to go to the cinema, but if it’s not in the movie theathers anymore, take a dvd or look at it online (this is a link for watching it online)
If you already saw the movie, I leave you now with some of the most beautiful quotes of Elizabeth Gilbert, the main character of the movie and book “Eat, Pray, Love: One woman’s search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia”. (many more quotes are available at this link)
“to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.”
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.
A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master…”
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
“We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy’s fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure–your perfection–is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the buy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.”
“I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.”
“To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.”
“Tis’ better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else’s perfectly.”
“Operation Self-Esteem–Day Fucking One.”
“You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.”
“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.”
“I met an old lady once, almost a hundred years old, and she told me, ‘There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? And Who’s in charge?”
“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.”
“There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.”
To find the balance you want, this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have 4 legs instead of 2. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead. That way, you will know God.”
“When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and its time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you dont even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.”
“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”
“I am a better person when I have less on my plate.”
“But is it such a bad thing to live like this for just a little while? Just for a few months of one’s life, is it so awful to…nap in a garden, in a patch of sunlight, in the middle of the day, right next to your favorite fountain? And then to do it again the next day?”
“Dear me, how I love a library.”
“Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots.”
“eventually, everything goes away.”
“There’s no trouble in this world so serious that it can’t be cured with a hot bath, a glass of whiskey, and the Book of Common Prayer.”
“I was full of a hot, powerful sadness and would have loved to burst into the comfort of tears, but tried hard not to, remembering something my Guru once said — that you should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead.”
“Stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be.”
“Some days are meant to be counted, others are meant to be weighed.”
“As smoking is to the lungs, so is resentment to the soul; even one puff is bad for you.”
“It’s still two human beings trying to get along, so it’s going to be complicated. And love is always complicated. But humans must try to love each other, darling. We must get our hearts broken sometimes. This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”
“Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing…”
“One thing I do know about intimacy is that there are certain natural laws which govern the sexual experience of two people, and that these laws cannot be budged any more than gravity can be negotiated with. To feel physically comfortable with someone else’s body is not a decision you can make. It has very little to do with how two people think or act or talk or even look. The mysterious magnet is either there, buried somewhere deep behind the sternum, or it is not. When it isn’t there (as I have learned in the past, with heartbreaking clarity) you can no more force it to exist than a surgeon can force a patient’s body to accept a kidney from the wrong donor. My friend Annie says it all comes down to one simple question: “Do you want your belly pressed against this person’s belly forever –or not?”
“I have a history of making decisions very quickly about men. I have always fallen in love fast and without measuring risks. I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential. I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.”
“In desperate love, we always invent the characters of our partners, demanding they be what we need of them, and then feeling devastated when they refuse to perform the role we created in the first place.”
“When the karma of a relationship is done, only love remains. It’s safe. Let go.”
“At some point, you gotta let go, and sit still, and allow contentment to come to you.”
“People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other’s personalities. Who wouldn’t? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that’s not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that. I can make something out of it.’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.”
“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”
“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”
“Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend.”
“So tonight I reach for my journal again. This is the first time I’ve done this since I came to Italy. What I write in my journal is that I am weak and full of fear. I explain that Depression and Loneliness have shown up, and I’m scared they will never leave. I say that I don’t want to take the drugs anymore, but I’m frightened I will have to. I am terrified that I will never really pull my life together.
In response, somewhere from within me, rises a now-familiar presence, offering me all the certainties I have always wished another person would say to me when I was troubled. This is what I find myself writing on the page:
I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long. I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it—I will love you through that, as well. If you don’t need the medication, I will love you, too. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and Braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.
Tonight, this strange interior gesture of friendship—the lending of a hand from
me to myself when nobody else is around to offer solace—reminds me of something that happened to me once in New York City. I walked into an office building one afternoon in a hurry, dashed into the waiting elevator. As I rushed in, I caught an unexpected glance of myself in a security mirror’s reflection. In that moment, my brain did an odd thing—it fired off this split-second message: “Hey! You know her! That’s a friend of yours!” And I actually ran forward toward my own reflection with a smile, ready to welcome that girl whose name I had lost but whose face was so familiar. In a flash instant of course, I realized my mistake and laughed in embarrassment at my almost doglike confusion over how a mirror works. But for some reason that incident comes to mind again tonight during my sadness in Rome, and I find myself writing this comforting reminder at the bottom of the page.
Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a FRIEND…
I fell asleep holding my notebook pressed against my chest, open to this most recent assurance. In the morning when I wake up, I can still smell a faint trace of depression’s lingering smoke, but he himself is nowhere to be seen. Somewhere during the night, he got up and left. And his buddy loneliness beat it, too.”
“I crossed the street to walk in the sunshine.”
“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
“The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement.”
“we must take care of our families where-ever we find them.”
“Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.”
“The resting place of the mind is the heart.”