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You love Humanity? Not Enough!

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

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