Monday, June 12, 2006

The Brother's Karamazov


I've heard it referred to from pulpits, mentioned in conversations, and acclaimed by literature critiques. Yet I've never read it. So, I set off to read The Brother's Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Already I am enjoying it even more than I enjoyed Crime and Punishment. For some reason, I just assumed that C & P was his greatest work. Here is a quote from the book:

(A reverenced elder monk is speaking to a "lady of little faith")

"Don't distress yourself about my opinion of you," said the elder. "I quite believe in the sincerity of your suffering."

"Oh, how thankful I am to you! You see, I shut my eyes and ask myself if everyone has faith, where did it come from? And then they do say that it all comes from terror at the menacing phenomena of nature, and that none of it's real. And I say to myself, 'What if I've been believing all my life, and when I come to die there's nothing but the burdocks growing on my grave?' as I read in some author. It's awful! How -- how can I get back my faith? But I only believed when I was a little child, mechanically, without thinking of anything. How, how is one to prove it? have come now to lay my soul before you and to ask you about it. If I let this chance slip, no one all my life will answer me. How can I prove it? How can I convince myself? Oh, how unhappy I am! I stand and look about me and see that scarcely anyone else cares; no one troubles his head about it, and I'm the only one who can't stand it. It's deadly -- deadly!"

"No doubt. But there's no proving it, though you can be convinced of it."

"By the experience of active love. Strive to love your neighbour actively and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbour, then you will believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. This has been tried. This is certain."

"In active love? There's another question and such a question! You see, I so love humanity that -- would you believe it? -- I often dream of forsaking all that I have, leaving Lise, and becoming a sister of mercy. I close my eyes and think and dream, and at that moment I feel full of strength to overcome all obstacles. No wounds, no festering sores could at that moment frighten me. I would bind them up and wash them with my own hands. I would nurse the afflicted. I would be ready to kiss such wounds."

"It is much, and well that your mind is full of such dreams and not others. Some time, unawares, you may do a good deed in reality."

"Yes. But could I endure such a life for long?" the lady went on fervently, almost frantically. "That's the chief question -- that's my most agonising question. I shut my eyes and ask myself, 'Would you persevere long on that path? And if the patient whose wounds you are washing did not meet you with gratitude, but worried you with his whims, without valuing or remarking your charitable services, began abusing you and rudely commanding you, and complaining to the superior authorities of you (which often happens when people are in great suffering) -- what then? Would you persevere in your love, or not?' And do you know, I came with horror to the conclusion that, if anything could dissipate my love to humanity, it would be ingratitude. In short, I am a hired servant, I expect my payment at once -- that is, praise, and the repayment of love with love. Otherwise I am incapable of loving anyone.'"

She was in a very paroxysm of self-castigation, and, concluding, she looked with defiant resolution at the elder."

This book is full of such quotes; departing from the story line and throwing in ideas, truths, and individules struggles with the human condition and thoughts. A great read and, though I am only on page 62, a must read in my opinion!

1 comment:

layman said...

I am ready for you next post. When are you going to be done with your vacation from blogging?

Laymen