I love invitations. When you are invited into someone's home, you enter in as a guest into the world of another. The kinds of invitations I like best are those which call me into the Weltanschauung or worldview of another. I have been inside Ayn Rand’s Temple to the Human Spirit, and admired it. Homer invited me to walk amongst the columns of the Greek mind, and I admired the manly virtues there. And of course, I myself live in a Cathedral, with lines pointing upwards and colored light illuminating the solid stone foundations set by the Bible.
I was recently invited into another world. I was invited to live in Czechoslovakia under the Soviet Union and to see the world through the eyes of an ironic Humanist. I read Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”
Whenever you enter a new worldview, the first thing you do is notice the differences. Indeed, the differences are most instructive. They offer the sharpest criticisms of your own worldview, especially when they are fully understood. The flying buttresses are pretty, but one gains a much deeper appreciation of the architect when one understands they have structural purposes beyond their aesthetic ones.
But before I describe the worldview, I need to share my feeling after having emerged from it. The greatest thing I feel is relief. I know that this will be painful for my kindly host to hear (the person who recommended the book), but I must confess that I am happy to emerge from the stuffy and poorly-lit apartment. I have been, for the hours reading the book, without hope and without purpose. Coming from Cathedral of Christianity, these are things that I have grown quite accustomed to and miss terribly if I am without them. If I wanted to stay in my home worldview, I could have. But reading books is not always about maintaining creature comforts.
It’s like visiting a family member in the New Jersey; the smell and lighting and noise of the place are all unpleasant, but that’s not why you’re there. The reason you’re there is to spend time with someone you love; you don’t go for the scenery. And I don’t always read books for the scenery; sometimes I read to visit my friends and to better understand their world. So though it has been unpleasant, it has been eminently worthwhile.