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Posts Tagged ‘rationality’

Once upon a time I read a book, kept hoping it would make sense at the end, and when the end was not the resolution for which I had hoped, declared the book to be a bad one, and not worthy of recommendation.  That book was much shorter than The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

I have never before read a Russian novel.  My literary experience has generally skirted the classics.  Against Tolstoy I am prejudiced, for his enormous works sat on the same shelf as Tolkien’s at the library, except Tolstoy’s were always waiting to be checked out while Tolkien’s occasionally visited their home nearby the famed Russian.  The literature of Russia has a reputation, but I am not entirely sure what that reputation is.  I think it has a reputation for being unpleasant.

For The Brothers Karamazov does not end like a romance or a tragedy.  The entire novel is like applied philosophy, the kind that is so like real life that it weaves a story.  There are many ideas brought forward by Dostoyevsky’s portrait of the Karamazov family, ideas which are loosely connected and often contradictory.  At the center of the tale is the trial of Dmitri Karamazov, the oldest son of the murdered Fyodor Karamazov.  Willing to betray a woman, willing to lie, unwilling to steal but stealing anyway, willing to beat a man – but not willing to murder?  Does integrity come by degrees?  What if the same man is willing to take pity, willing to show gratitude, willing to be generous, willing to love?  Can such extremes exist sincerely in one person?

Perhaps rather than claiming the book to be a study of evil’s causes and cures, it could be described as a description of the approach Russians have taken to evil.

Is evil innate?  Is it taught?  Is it a response to neglect and abuse?  Does evil behavior spring from insanity?  Is it the inevitable cause of rejecting God’s world – even if you still embrace God?

What about cure?  Will science cure evil?  Liberation?  If a culture embraces the creed that “all is lawful,” will evil cease to exist?  Can piety cure evil?  Goodness?  Vengeance?  Mercy?  Gratitude?  What prevents evil?  Honesty?  Faith?  Does the threat of law discourage evil?  Does the church’s social influence deter evil?

Has the church been corrupted?  Can conflict exist in the midst of the church or society, without at least one side representing evil?  Has God been corrupted?  Has God been lied about?  Has the Devil?  What is the Devil’s goal?  For that matter, what is God’s?

What would a man take in exchange for his soul?  If he could save someone he loved from damnation, what would he sacrifice?  If he could save someone he hated?  Would a proud enemy accept help?

What is the difference between remorse and despair?  Forgiveness and disdain?  Why do people seek after a sign?  Must we walk by reason and experience, or is it possible to walk by honor and faith?  Can a person love another and hate them at the same time?  Can God?

I once read a book and kept hoping that the end would bring resolution, but I will not declare this book to be a bad book.  I will humbly admit that I do not understand The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  It has a lot to say about the psyche of Russia, their history and culture.  If I re-read the book, now knowing the story, I might be able to follow its message.  But at 700 pages long, I’m not particularly eager to.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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About 5 this morning I woke up.  No alarm – are you kidding? – sounded.  My dream woke me.  Usually you hear of nightmares scaring you awake.  But this was different.  The dream was equally emotional, and that intensity of feeling awakened me.  For an hour afterwards I couldn’t fall back asleep, unable to shake the strong memory of the dream. 
 
While I lay awake, I prayed.  Processing middle of the night irrationality with God is something I have done before.  I don’t know why God lets me go through insomnia, withholding the sweet forgetfulness and peace of sleep.  Prayers when you can’t think straight and you’re breathing hard to separate uncontrolled imagination with reality are interesting things.  They go in different directions than the considered prayers of the morning and daytime. 
 
One thought was why I dream.  During the day I can have an active imagination, read all sorts of books without pictures.  Why though do dreams take that imagination and do with it what I would never allow – all when the inhibitor chip of my rational, responsible brain is snoozing?  For some reason I compared my mid-night state with dementia or Alzheimer’s.  Those people lose their rationality and their memory.  But deep down, they are the same people.  I thought of two things that could prepare you to go crazy gracefully (don’t judge me for thinking about these things; I say, it was the middle of the night!): 1.  Learn to cope with fear.  I cannot fathom the fear I would experience if I found out I had dementia or Alzheimer’s – or if I woke up in a place I didn’t recognize surrounded by people whom I didn’t remember.  A lot would depend on my trained reaction to such bewilderment.  2.  Build truth and kindness into my character now.  I don’t believe character will change (apart from drug-induced alterations, which I hope to avoid). 
 
Kindness, and a calm response to fearful situations and confusion, are thus some focuses of my life for the next few decades. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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