Saturday, July 25, 2009

Theological Notes From "The Brothers Karamazov"

So my girlfriend is reading a really good but long book called "The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoevsky written from 1879 to 1880. I would love to read the book but being it is about 1100 pages long I don't see that happening anytime soon. But the beauty of having such an amazing girlfriend is that she just reads all the really good parts to me so I don't have to read it myself. Today she read to me a part which we both found very moving and I wanted to share. In this scene a young man (who is later an elder, highly respected monk) receives a mysterious visitor and they begin a theological discussion. The following is an excerpt from one of their conversations:

"I have been thinking myself for a long time, about life being heaven," he told me once. "Indeed I have been thinking of nothing else," he added quickly. "And you know, I'm even more firmly convinced of it than you are, and one day you'll find out why."
As he spoke he looked at me and smiled, and I thought he was about to reveal something to me.
"Heaven is within reach of everyone of us, and now it is within my reach too; if I choose I could have it tomorrow, real heaven, for all my life."
He spoke with fervor and looked at me mysteriously, as if asking something of me.
"As to every man being answerable for everybody and everything, not just for his own sins," he went on, "you are absolutely right about it, and the way you succeeded in grasping that idea so fully, all at once, is really remarkable. Is it true that when men understand that idea, the kingdom of God will no longer be a dream but a reality."
"But when do you expect that to happen?" I cried bitterly. "When will it come about, if ever? Perhaps it's just a dream and nothing more."
"So you don't believe yourself," he answered, "in the things you preach to others. Let me tell you, then, that this dream, as you call it, will most certainly come true. You may rest assured of that, but it will not happen immediately, because everything that happens in this world is controlled by its own set of laws. In this case, it is a psychological matter, a state of mind. In order to change the world, man's way of thinking must be changed. Thus there can be no brotherhood of men before all men become each other's brothers. There is no science, no order based on the pursuit of material gain, that will enable men to share their goods fairly and to respect each other's rights. There will never be enough to satisfy everyone; men will always be envious of their neighbors and will always destroy one another. So to your question when heaven on earth will come about, I can only promise you that it will come about without fail, but first the period of man's isolation must come to an end."
"What isolation?" I asked him.
"The isolation that you find everywhere, particularly in our age. But it won't come to an end right now, because the time has not yet come. Today everyone asserts his own personality and strives to live a full life as an individual. But these efforts lead not to a full life but to suicide, because, instead of realizing his personality, man only slips into total isolation. For in our age mankind has been broken up into self-contained individuals, each of whom retreats into his lair, trying to stay away from the rest, hiding himself from people and people from him. And, while he accumulates material wealth in his isolation, he thinks with satisfaction how mighty and secure he has become, because he is mad and cannot see that the more goods he accumulates, the deeper he sinks into suicidal impotence. The reason for this is that he has become accustomed to relying only on himself; he has split off from the whole and become an isolated unit; he has trained his soul not to rely on human help, not to believe in men and mankind, and only to worry that the wealth and privileges he has accumulated may get lost. Everywhere men today are turning scornfully away from the truth that the security of the individual cannot be achieved by his isolated efforts but only by mankind as a whole.
"But an end to this fearful isolation is bound to come and all men will understand how unnatural it was for them to have isolated themselves from one another. This will be the spirit of the new era and people will look back in amazement at the past, when they sat in darkness and refused to see the light. And it is then that the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens...But until that day we must keep hope alive, and now then a man must set an example, if only an isolated one, by trying to life his soul out of its isolation and offering it in an act of brotherly communion, even if he is taken for one of God's fools. This is necessary, to keep the great idea alive."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Reading is Fun

Being out of school now for 3 weeks I have been spending some good time sitting at my favorite local coffee shop and reading. Upon entering grad school I had more of a love hate relationship with reading, meaning I loved what I learned and got from reading but hated the process of reading (mostly because of my dyslexia). After four years of grad school and reading thousands upon thousands of pages I now not only read better (I guess practice does help?) but I love it! Reading has become my way of relaxing. With that said, I thought I would just post what I am currently reading and see if anyone out there had any suggestions.

"An Emergent Manifesto of Hope" edited by Doug Pagitt & Tony Jones
"The Last Battle" by C.s. Lewis
"The irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical" by Shane Claiborne
"The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals" by Michael Pollan

I know my current reading list is varied and many, but during grad school I learned to be reading multiple books at one time and stay on track with all of them. I even like it this way because it allows me to read according to my mood (look mom I am even a consumer in my reading process!). Any suggestions for future reads?