Wednesday, November 23, 2011


A few quotes from The Brothers Karamazov, which I finished re-reading last night.


"Much on earth is concealed from us, but in place of it we have been granted a secret, mysterious sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world, and the roots of our thoughts and feelings are not here but in other worlds.  That is why philosophers say it is impossible on earth to conceive the essence of things.  God took seeds from other worlds and sowed them on this earth, and raised up his garden; and everything that could sprout sprouted, but it lives and grows only through it sense of being in touch with other mysterious worlds; if this sense is weakened or destroyed in you, that which has grown up in you dies.  Then you become indifferent to life, and even come to hate it.  So I think."

- Zosima (320)


"Tell me, Karamazov, am I very ridiculous now?"
    "But don't think about it, don't think about it at all!" Alyosha exclaimed.  "And what does it mean--ridiculous?  What does it matter how many times a man is or seems to be ridiculous?  Besides, nowadays almost all capable people are terribly afraid of being ridiculous, and are miserable because of it.  I'm only surprised that you've begun to feel it so early, though, by the way, I've been noticing it for a long time, and not in you alone.  Nowadays even children almost are already beginning to suffer from it.  It's almost a madness.  The devil has incarnated himself in this vanity and crept into a whole generation--precisely the devil," Alyosha added, not smiling at all, as Kolya, who was looking at him intently, thought for a moment.  "you are like everyone else," Alyosha concluded, "that is, like a great many others, only you ought not to be like everyone else, that's what."
    "Even if everyone is like that?"
    "Yes, even if everyone is like that.  You be the only one who is not like that."

-Alyosha and Kolya (557)


"These educated parents subjected the poor five-year old girl to every possible torture.  They beat her, flogged her, kicked her, not knowing why themselves, until her whole body was nothing but bruises; finally they attained the height of finesse: in the freezing cold, they locked her all night in the outhouse, because she wouldn't ask to get up and go in the middle of the night (as if a five-year-old child sleeping its sound angelic sleep could have learned to ask by that age)--for that they smeared her face with her excrement and made her eat the excrement, and it was her mother, her mother who made her!  And this mother could sleep while her poor little child was moaning all night in that vile place!  Can you understand that a small creature, who cannot even comprehend what is being done to her, in a vile place, in the dark and the cold, beats herself on her strained little chest with her tiny fist and weeps with her anguished, gentle, meek tears for 'dear God' to protect her--can you understand such nonsense, my friend and my brother, my godly and humble novice, can you understand why this nonsense is needed and created?  Without it, they say, man could not even have lived on earth, for he would not have known good and evil.  Who wants to know this damned good and evil at such a price?  The whole world of knowledge is not worth the tears of that little child to 'dear God.'  I'm not talking about the suffering of grown-ups, they ate the apple and to hell with them, let the devil take them all, but these little ones!

- Ivan Fyodorovich (242)


"No science will give them bread as long as they remain free, but in the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us: 'Better that you enslave us, but feed us.' They will finally understand that freedom and earthly bread in plenty for everyone are inconceivable together, for never, never will they be able to share among themselves." 

- Ivan Fyodorovich, through the Grand Inquisitor (253)


"There is no more ceaseless and tormenting care for man, as long as he remains free, than to find someone to bow down to as soon as possible.  But man seeks to bow down before that which is indisputable, so indisputable that all men at once would agree to the universal worship of it.  For the care of these pitiful creatures is not just to find something before which I or some other man can bow down, but to find something that everyone else will also believe in and bow down to, for it must needs be all together.  And this need for communality of worship is the chief torment of ages.  In the cause of universal worship, they have destroyed each other with the sword." 



"We are assured that the world is becoming more and more united, is being formed into brotherly communion, by the shortening of distances, by the transmitting of thoughts through the air.  Alas, do not believe in such a union of people.  Taking freedom to mean the increase and prompt satisfaction of needs, they distort their own nature, for they generate many meaningless and foolish desires, habits, and the most absurd fancies in themselves...I knew one 'fighter for an idea' who told me himself that when he was deprived of tobacco in prison, he was so tormented by this deprivation that he almost went and betrayed his 'idea,' just so that they would give him some tobacco.  And such a man says: 'I am going to fight for mankind.'  Well, how far will such a man get, and what is he good for?  Perhaps some quick action, but he will not endure for long...and therefore the idea of serving mankind, of the brotherhood and oneness of people, is fading more and more in the world, and indeed the idea now even meets with mockery, for how can one drop one's habits, where will this slave go now that he is so accustomed to satisfying the innumerable needs he himself has invented?  He is isolated, and what does he care about the whole?  They have succeeded in amassing more and more things, but have less and less joy. 

- Zosima (314)

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