I’ve been reading Fyodor Dostoevsky’s masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov, over the last several months and have fallen in love with his thoughtful character development and artistry in dialogue. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a novel that made me feel as though I was sitting in a room amongst friends, watching every move, perceiving every thought. He is a brilliant writer.
In entering his characters’ psyche, I have appreciated the faith dialogue as each charter deals with God in different ways. Very true to the lives of many of his readers and in no doubt Dostoevsky’s life of internal dialogue formed during a culturally crucial time in Russian history.
With all that said, I highly recommend the read and I also want to highlight a small section of the book in which he has written Thoughts and Teachings from Elder Zosima. I’ve found this small section in Book 6 Chapter 3 quite profound regarding our own culturally critical time the United States as we deal with percentages like 99 and 1. Perhaps we can glean wisdom from a man who lived through the rising of Humanism and eventually Communism and the crushing of Christianity in his beloved homeland.
What kind of effect does this shift have on an entire nation of people? What happens when God dies and entitlement and selfishness prevail? Perhaps the below quote from the late 1870’s could give some insight.
A Few Thoughts on the Russian Monk and His Potential Role
…Look at the worldly, at those who set themselves above the people of God – have they not distorted the image of God and His truth? They have science, but science contains nothing that does not come through the senses. The spiritual world, the nobler side of man’s being, has been rejected altogether, banned as it were triumphantly, perhaps even with hatred. The world has proclaimed freedom, now more loudly than ever, but what do we find in that freedom of theirs? Nothing but enslavement and suicide! The world says: “You have needs – satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and mighty. Don’t hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more.” This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder; for while the poor have been handed all these rights, they have not been given the means to enjoy them. Some claim that the world is gradually becoming united, that it will grow into a brotherly community as distances shrink and ideas are transmitted through the air. Alas, you must not believe that men can be united in this way. To consider freedom as directly dependent on the number of man’s requirements and the extent of their immediate satisfaction shows a twisted understanding of human nature, for such an interpretation only breeds in men a multitude of senseless, stupid desires and habits and endless preposterous inventions. People are more and more moved by envy now, by the desire to satisfy their material greed, and by vanity. Giving dinners, riding in private carriages, occupying high social positions, and having myriads of servants – these are considered so important by some that they devote their whole lives to acquiring them and sacrifice for their sake their love of their fellow men, and sometimes even kill themselves if they cannot obtain what they believe they must have. It is the same with those who are not rich. And, as to the poor, who cannot satisfy their needs at all, they just drown their envy of others in alcohol. But the way they are being aroused now, it will soon be blood rather than liquor on which they will get drunk. Now let me ask you: Do you really think that such men are free? One “champion of freedom” told me himself that when he was arrested and deprived of tobacco, the privation was so painful to him that he was on the verge of betraying his “cause,” just to get something to smoke. And this was a man who said: “I am fighting for mankind!” What can such a man do, though – what is he good for, unless he acts on some sudden impulse? He will never be able to endure pain for the sake of his “cause.” So it is not surprising that, instead of freedom, they lapse into slavery, that instead of promoting unity and brotherhood, they encourage division and isolation, as my mysterious guest and teacher explained to me in my youth. That is why the idea of service to mankind and brotherly love has been dying out in the world; indeed, now it is often sneered at, for what can a man do who has become the slave of the innumerable needs and habits he has invented for himself? He lives in his separate little world and does not care about the great world outside. The result of all this is that, today, when more material goods have been accumulated than ever, there is less joy.
Happy reading…and philosophizing.