A couple of months ago, I finished reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s profound book, The Brothers Karamazov. As the pages drew to a close, I wondered how the truth and the beauty of what I was reading might be translated. So I made some notes in my journal with the hopes of returning to these thoughts and expanding them into a blog post, or perhaps some other form that might save humanity.
But then I got busy. And I have to confess that, as more time passes between the final page and the current moment, my original plans may have been a touch too grand.
That being said, I still wanted to say something about this work, about the thoughts that were stirring in me, and about the richness of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s perspective on what it means to be fully human.
So before I lose these thoughts, I have copied an entry from my notebook about the impressions, the thoughts, and the desires that were awakened as I sat with The Brothers Karamazov.
Finished up The Brothers Karamazov this morning. Wow. The combination of tragedy and resurrection, of death and life, in Dostoyevsky’s writing is just stunning. Refreshing on so many levels to give full voice to crushing pain, unjust loss, while at the same time looking beyond the suffering, embracing radical, unbridled hope.
At first, it seems that he hopes in spite of his grim outlook on humanity, but the more I sit with it, the more I’m convinced that hope can only be true and present where there is an embrace of frailty, of devastation, of loss. Humanity, it seems, thrives in places of death, and it is no more evident than in the cross itself.
We were not made for muted obedience, but for struggle; for war on war itself. And so is it any wonder that, in attempts to escape the depths, we may well be escaping the heights, as well, of our humanity? Could our impulse away from death truly be an impulse away from life at the same time?
“They have their hamlets, we have our Karamazovs,” the prosecutor preached. But would it be any less accurate to say that we ourselves are Karamazovs? What capacities we have for good as well as for evil! And what stops us, like Mitya, from following through on our most evil impulses and plans? As Mitya’s mother was praying for him, don’t the saints, and Christ himself, pray constantly for us?
And second chances! Kolya’s pride is broken when Illuysha is loved to the end by a pack of boys who had once mercilessly taunted him. Life is so much about second chances, about growing into merciful, faithful people.
May every word I write strive to capture the “whole of man in man.” May I, like Dostoyevsky, have the courage to let my own experience of tragedy, joy, pain, contentment, disillusionment, and hope be revealed in my words, ever so feebly written.