"What happens but once might as well not have happened at all". This is a phrase which frequently populates Milan Kundera's novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", by far my favorite all time novel. The novel is a search for meaning in life which leans towards the necessity of significance, which comes from a sense of weight. It attempts to identify what makes us need companionship in life as well as trying to understand the relationships between conflicting desires. Is the absence of any responsibilities and ties in life really a "lightness"? Does this lightness, or absence of relationships, become "unbearable"? The novel portrays how vulnerable we are of our contradictory desires, aspirations and impulses.
"When we want to give expression to a dramatic situation in our lives, we tend to use metaphors of heaviness. We say that something has become a great burden to us. We either bear the burden or fail and go down with it, we struggle with it, win or lose. And Sabina, What had come over her? Nothing. She had left a man because she felt like leaving him. Had he persecuted her? Had he tried to take revenge on her? No. Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden but the unbearable lightness of being." pp. 121-122
I also must include a personal note regarding this novel and perhaps why it has affected me so deeply. I was sitting on a park bench reading Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" while I was studying photography at UCONN. While reading a physician came up to me and we started chatting and we ended up going out on a few dates, but it never evolved into anything. I discovered Kundera's novel shortly after this encounter while scouring the "Red Barn" used book store and took it with me while traveling Europe. The opening chapter introduces two of the central characters; Tomas, who is a physician, and Tereza, who is an armature photographer. They meet one another while Tereza is reading "Anna Karenina"....now how spooky is That?! This was over 17 years ago and the book has never left me!