I am posting another passage from Dostoevsky, one that explains or describes the feeling many of us often feel. Passionate love for humanity, and yet at times indifference for man. How we often dream of serving and benefiting humanity, and yet are unable to translate that passion when we deal with individual humans. This passage, my friends, is a self-castigation exercise. I want you all to give it a read. I really feel that Dostoevsky speaks to us all. Ingratitude is probably what drives people away from each the most. Not everybody wants materialistic returns. Some honestly, just want to be loved back in return.
‘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. 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. ‘It’s just the same story as a doctor once told me,’ observed the elder. ‘He was a man getting on in years, and undoubtedly clever. He spoke as frankly as you, though in jest, in bitter jest. ‘I love humanity,’ he said, ‘but I wonder at myself. The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular. In my dreams,’ he said, ‘I have often come to making enthusiastic schemes for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually have faced crucifixion if it had been suddenly necessary; and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together, as I know by experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs my self-complacency and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner; another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I detest men individually the more ardent becomes my love for humanity.’
‘But what’s to be done? What can one do in such a case? Must one despair?
The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
Here’s what I replied to a post by The Book Club of Karachi on Facebook, “The most inspirational sentence you read in 2013?”
I could choose once sentence from this passage maybe, but this whole passage is too brilliant to ignore. This stunned me probably like nothing else this year. A wonderful book and a wonderful writer, from which I hope to share more passages in the coming days.
‘Ofcourse, when Alyosha was in the monastery he believed entirely in miracles, but I dont think miracles ever confound a realist. Nor is it miracles that bring a realist to religion. If he is an unbeliever, a true realist will always find the strength & ability not to believe in a miracle, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact, he will rather disbelieve his own senses than accept that fact. Or he may concede the fact and explain it away as a natural phenomenon until then unknown. In a realist, it is not miracles that generate faith, but faith that generates miracles. Once a realist becomes a believer, however, his very realism will make him accept the existence of miracles. The apostle Thomas said he would not believe until he saw, and when he saw, he said: ”My Lord and my God!”. Was it a miracle that made him believe? Most likely not. He believed only because he wanted to believe, and possibly he already believed in the secret recesses of his being.’
Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov.