F. Scott Fitzgerald and I have a history. And like most of his relationships, it is one that is troubled. I made a holy pilgrimage to visit his dorm room at Princeton. I can’t think of a higher form of hero worship; so yes, I wanted to be just like him. You see, I’ve read The Great Gatsby numerous times. Something about the desire to be someone else – believing that there was a part of your life that you were denied because of whom you actually were - resonated with me. And I know it’s resonated for some of those reading this as well.
You can find a bit of the writer in every lead character that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote. Despite it being prominent in his other works, it is particularly strong in The Great Gatsby. Beyond the obvious fact that The Great Gatsby was from the MidWest, like Fitzgerald, and Daisy was from the South, like Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, there is another reason I know: through experience. I wrote three novels (all of which sold phenomenally poorly, so no movie deals for me). And the greatest way to sound credible is to write what you know. And Fitzgerald knew himself. He therefore reflected himself in every character.
While He Mirrored Many Of Us, Here’s How He Wasn’t A Yogi
The character of Jay Gatsby is fascinating to me for a number of reasons. I conceded above about a desire to be someone else – how many others of us have felt that way? But this is not an attribute of a yogi. Being a yogi is about acceptance. And a part of that is accepting who we are and being okay with it. Gatsby wasn’t, and I’ll argue that at one point or another neither were we. Most of us get over it and learn to accept the parts of ourselves we wish we could change. But Gatsby takes this to an extreme and builds an entire life based on lies. All so that he could pursue the love of his life.
This brings us to another one of his shortcomings. Gatsby wasn’t very present in interacting with Daisy, the woman whom he had redirected his life to pursue, and in falling short of that, he didn’t see her for whom she really was, or how she had changed since he had last been with her. He had deified her and had created outlandish expectations of her that no being could ever fulfill. He demands that she announce that she never loved her husband. He couldn’t see that she may have had feelings for him, irrespective of whether they were reciprocated or not. And while not in the movie, the scene where Gatsby meets Daisy’s daughter is indicative: his normal calm self is ill at ease and agitated. A child of Daisy’s doesn’t figure into his immaculate, and yet tragically untenable, dream.
His insistence that the past can be replicated is his ultimate downfall. As yogis we know that we must move on. It isn’t a very mindful approach to insist that the past can be re-enacted or re-lived. People may grow or regress, in either case, they change. We are different as time passes. Our experiences shape whom we are. Our beliefs either increase in their resolve or they are altered. In either scenario, we are not static beings. Gatsby’s failure to accept change and adapt to it made him less than a yogi.
The “Great” In The Great Gatsby
The one way in which I do see him as a yogi is his steadfast devotion to his cause. He is surrounded by excess when he throws his lavish parties. People around him are having an all-out good time. A bacchanalia of sensual and sentient desire: hedonism of a proportion that would make Dionysus jealous. Yet, he is not a part of that. In the book, he doesn’t even drink. His heart is not content without the love of his life, his only goal. He has a longing and only that longing can bring him peace. It is that devotion that causes the narrator to say “He is the most hopeful person I ever met”. Gatsby believed. Yes, we can still achieve our dreams. Yes, we can change our lot in life. Yes, nothing should deter us from that. And for that, old sport, Gatsby depicts the virtue of a yogi.