I am currently reading Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, a book which explores familial relations and the personal psychology related to it. However, this blog is not a review of the book (I’m not even done reading it yet!). Instead, I am going to share a piece of the book which I felt was an incredibly accurate depiction of my personal beliefs. The character speaking is named Father Zossima, who on his death bed shares his last words of wisdom to one of the brothers, Aloysha Karamazov. He states:
“Love God’s people. Because we [the monks] have come here and shut ourselves within these walls, we are no holier than those that are outside, but on the contrary, from the very fact of coming here, each of us has confessed to himself that he is worst than others…Know, dear ones, that every one of us is undoubtedly responsible for all men and everything on earth, not merely through the general sinfulness of creation, but each one personally for all mankind and every individual man…Only through that knowledge, our heart grows soft with infinite, universal, inexhaustible love. Then everyone of you will have the power to win over the whole world by love and to wash away the sins of the world with your tears.
Each of you keep watch over your heart and confess your sins to yourself unceasingly. Be not afraid of your sins, even when perceiving them, if only there be penitence, but make no conditions with God…Be not proud. Be proud neither to the little nor to the great. Hate not those who reject you, who insult you, who abuse and slander you. Hate not the atheists, the teachers of evil, the materialists- and I mean not only the good ones-for there are many good ones among them, especially in our day- hate not even the wicked ones. Remember them in your prayers.”
I am not a monk, and I am sure that most of the people who will read this are not either. But, there are some key components to this quote that can apply to everyone.
1. The idea of love: I love how Dostoevsky makes love a responsibility for each and every individual. Rather than emphasizing love as a feeling as so many in American culture do, he instead explains love as understanding that you are better than not one person and that is your duty to live accordingly, understanding that you are responsible for all men and all of mankind. Thus, “helping others” goes from a good deed to an expected deed…something no greater than eating dinner to sustain your body or going for a walk to get some exercise. Caring for others should be expected rather than just desired.
2. The idea of sin: Here, Dostoevsky acknowledges that every man sins. But, men seem to be so afraid of their sins, their mistakes, in general that they are not spoken of. But, Dostoevsky encourages man to not only acknowledge them, but to remind him of them constantly. Mistakes exist and are inevitable, but if man accepts them and learns from them he will progress further than if he tries to hide them and be ashamed of them. In doing so, Dostoevsky makes it seem much more acceptable to be a fallible human.
3. The idea of hate: Love and hate go hand in hand since they are on opposing ends of the spectrum. Most of the time, hate is associated with those that are the hardest to love, or those who “insult or reject you”, just as Dostoevsky stated. But, I think he incorporates the hardest and most important part of love by telling us that we not only should not hate these people, but we should pray for them. For those who are not religious, this can be translated to not only should we not hate them, but we should show extra thought and love to them.
Book review on the actual story will be coming soon!