The Human Essence
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby a well-known French journalist, author and editor of the French fashion magazine Elle. A film, by the same title, and based on the book, was nominated for four Oscars in 2008.
On 8 December 1995 at the age of 43, Bauby suffered a massive stroke. When he woke up twenty days later, he found only his left eye had movement. The stroke had resulted in locked-in syndrome, a condition where mental faculties remain intact but most if not all of the body is paralyzed.
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is Bauby’s memoir. He learned to communicate by blinking his left eye whenever his speech therapist would get to the letter he wanted and thus forming words and phrases.
The title of the book comes from Bauby’s notion that while his body was submerged and weighted down — impossible to move — his imagination and memory were still free and as light as a butterfly’s wings: “My cocoon becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly. There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court.” A few days after the book was published to rave reviews in March 1997, Bauby died of an infection.
What is so telling and moving is how Bauby, a man who was used to youth, money and prestige found meaning and purpose in a life trapped within. Once stripped of his ability to physically do and be, he delved into who he was and in that he found his true life source.
Most of us thankfully will never get to experience such a dramatic loss. But what we can learn from such people like Bauby, is that the source of each of our lives lies within. In our own selves we find love. We also find our true nature which is not bound to achievements and successes. Within we are free to experience the greatness of what being human can actually be.