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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Prague Spring brought mass protests to Czech society. Contributor ANGELA GALA wanders into Milan Kundara's socialist republic and learns why each person has one life to live.

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Milan Kundara

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Dear Reader,

We all need someone to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under. The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public. The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes.

Then there is the third category, the category of those who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love, and finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present.
Milan Kundera

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Dear Milan,

Who is the dreamer? Is this rare breed a collection of those who sacrifice their own happiness for what is possible? Can they find happiness in these dreams, or are they destined to be unfulfilled? Are the rest of us content? Content with what is in front of us? Is it that the dreamer cannot live without his beautiful vision, or is it that the rest of us are so tragically disconnected from our own?

What if all the dreamers gave up? Where would we be? Would the rest of us parish into the reality of self-interest? Is reality objective, or is it what we perceive it to be? Why write this novel? Why such brutal treatment of these gorgeous creatures? Is cynicism the destroyer of dreams? Is it what makes brutality possible? Is the cynic the worst kind of dreamer: the one that didn’t have the courage to believe? To live it? To die by it? Is that you?

Where would we be without Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Christ, Mandela, Buddha and Muhammad? Didn’t we see ourselves in their dreams? Were we the ones who destroyed their essence. Is it the ‘dream’ or the ‘dreamer’ who is misguided? Perhaps it is using the dream to force uniformity that destroys it. When a dream becomes a directive, isn’t that just coercion? It moves from essence to commercialism. Is that when it goes wrong? And is it our laziness that allows it? In its purest form and intent, is communism, consumerism, or any other ‘ism’ that bad in and of itself?

Can we see the link in all dreams? What if we had the same dream? What if we didn’t use the dreams to serve ourselves, but instead sought to understand and be inspired by them: inspired to live and create our own dreams instead of relying on a formula derived from someone else’s dream? Were you one of them? Are you the cynic or are you the Charlatan? Do you still have a dream? I have a dream. Can you hear it?
Angela Gala



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Make sense of the week's news. Charlatan reviews the world's show & message.