Inexperience is a quality of the human condition. We are born one time only; we can never start a new life equipped with the experience we’ve gained from a previous one. We leave childhood without knowing what youth is; we marry without knowing what it is to be married; and even when we enter old age, we don’t know what it is we’re heading for: The old are innocent children of their old age. In that sense, man’s world is the planet of inexperience.
— Milan Kundera
The dreams are eloquent, but they are also beautiful. That aspect seems to have escaped Freud in his theory of dreams. Dreaming is not merely an act of communication (or coded communication, if you like); it is also an aesthetic activity, a game of the imagination, a game that is a value in itself. Our dreams prove that to imagine - to dream about things that have not happened - is among mankind’s deepest needs.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, p59, Milan Kundera, 1 April 1929
As you live out your desolation, you can be either unhappy or happy. Having that choice is what constitutes your freedom.
I think, therefore I am is the statement of an intellectual who underrates toothaches.
I feel, therefore I am is a truth much more universally valid, and it applies to everything that’s alive.
My self does not differ substantially from yours in terms of its thought.
Many people, few ideas: we all think more or less the same, and we exchange, borrow, steal thoughts from one another. However, when someone steps on my foot, only I feel the pain.
The basis of the self is not thought but suffering, which is the most fundamental of all feelings.
While it suffers, not even a cat can doubt its unique and uninterchangeable self.
In intense suffering the world disappears and each of us is alone with his self.
Suffering is the university of ego-centrism.
— Milan Kundera (Immortality)
There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time. In existential mathematics, that experience takes the form of two basic equations: the degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.
Let us therefore agree that the idea of eternal return implies a perspective from which things appear other than as we know them: they appear without the mitigating circumstance of their transitory nature. This mitigating circumstance prevents us from coming to a verdict. For how can we condemn something that is ephemeral, in transit? In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.
Challenging Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence (the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur ad infinitum), the story’s thematic meditations posit the alternative that each person has only one life to live, and that which occurs in that life, occurs only once and shall never occur again — thus the “lightness” of being; whereas eternal recurrence imposes a “heaviness” on our lives and on the decisions we make (it gives them weight, to borrow from Nietzsche’s metaphor), a heaviness that Nietzsche thought could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on one’s perspective.
The German expression Einmal ist keinmal encapsulates “lightness” so: “what happens but once, might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all”; if concluded logically, life ultimately is insignificant. Hence, because decisions do not matter, they are rendered light, because they do not cause personal suffering. Yet, simultaneously, the insignificance of decisions — our being — causes us great suffering, perceived as the unbearable lightness of being consequent to one’s awareness of life occurring once and never again; thus no one person’s actions are universally significant. This insignificance is existentially unbearable when it is considered that people want their lives to have transcendent meanin
— excerpt from the Wikipedia article
on The Unbearable Lightness of Being
by Milan Kundera (via dern