Just finished Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky a couple hours ago. Whew!
Afterwards, I slept for twenty minutes, but my mind didn’t. It stewed and raged with the possibilities and the realities of Dostoevsky’s thought. He writes in 1865, yet world leaders live into the thought of Raskolnikov today; making the world simplistic, cut-and-dried, black-and-white, good-and-evil, drawing those who don’t want to think for themselves onto their coattails, stirring them to passionate action. that. is. sometimes. deadly. and. disgustingly. wrong. And yet they feel no remorse. And do not come to the brilliant realization of Raskolnikov, nor subject themselves to the great virtue of humility; their pride blinds them, destroys them, and shatters the world by extension through them.
We see this, and yet we are too lazy to emerge from the cycle. We claim certain emotions/reason/ethics/actions as “practical” and “necessary,” yet our emotions/reason/ethics/actions only perpetuate the brokenness, only maintain the darkness of a world of “necessity” without considering whether our actions driven by “necessity” are truly necessary at all. They’re often not.
Who will break the cycle? Can we break the cycle? Is God above and beyond Christianity and Judaism and Islam and Buddhism? Is the call of God transcendent? Built into every human being?
Do any systems of thought, any great persons offer a glimpse, a snapshot of the transcendent? And when they do, are we afraid? Are we too prideful to admit their honesty and their truthfulness? Do we indulge our cowardice of the truth while we hold our weapons that give us “comfort” and “safety” yet fill us with suspicion, questioning, and mistrust? Can those weapons both be physical and emotional; things we employ to give us distance from others for the sake of our own selfishness? Can we live free of this suspicion, questioning, and mistrust (short-term questioning that arises aside, can we be free over the long-term?)?
Is there nothing transcendent, with life being but a series of breathings, blinkings, eating, sleeping, copulating, and work under the thumb of a world already set, full of “laws” and “facts” already pre-determined for us by the confident assertions of those who have gone before us, those who have had “greater insight” into the machinations of our universe than us; insights that demand we knuckle under and passively follow?
Is life one damn “ought” after another, reality that which existed before us and will exist afterwards? One in which we do not matter; our lives either having no meaning, or a meaning and an effect that fades 5, 10, 50, 100 years later when our name falls from the lips and thoughts of those who remember us?
Can that suggested transcendence suggested of before enliven our human emotions/reason/ethics/thoughts/actions with something beyond us, something that ripples out into eternity whether we live five minutes or a century? Can our active role in living into that transcendent reality create deeper and more forceful ripples than passively or dispassionately living? Can my ripples( if healing) neutralize the ripples ( if destructive) of others perpetuating the cycle? Somehow provide a glimpse of the transcendent in the midst of reality that is often drudgery and brokenness? Am I capable of the opposite action, the destructive kind, the ripples of fragmentation, enslavement, and mistrust?
What if the transcendent breaks through in a shocking, miraculous, intensely physical way now…not because of my ability or giftedness but because of the transcendent working through my willingness, my fidelity, my passion? Is that what happened with Jesus? Can the transcendent be deeply transcendent, deeply “other,” yet also deeply personal and relational? Can it (or He, or She) seek me, aggressively pursue me, love me in my brokenness? Is it possible?
All these, and more, flash through my head as I must settle down to the drudgery of finishing my semester. I compartmentalize my emotions, my thoughts, and place them in the recesses of my mind for the sake of necessity. They cannot/should not disturb what “needs to be done” right now.
What if I never return to these thoughts? What if I always shove them away, trivialize them for the sake of necessity, of “what needs to be done right now”? Will I have wasted my life, salted away my minutes, my days, and years for the sake of what is “necessary” only to find the “necessary” has enslaved me?
How can I balance what “needs to be done” (the practical) with what “deserves to be thought about,” what compels me to “consider reality beyond the drudgery of daily reality”(the theoretical)? Will that balance ever be perfect? I think not. Will the pursuit of that balance send me careening either into emotionless duty or deeply emotional existential panic? I think so. Is it worth it to spit on the felt need to occupy one extreme or the other and to choose to struggle? To find myself erring on either side? To have friends honest enough to keep me accountable? Friends who will give me room to explore, to doubt, to laugh, to vent, to read, to feel ecstasy, to feel shattered?
All this, and more, rages in my mind right now. I didn’t intend to be melodramatic, and I personally don’t care if I came off that way. This was stream of consciousness; bare, raw feelings that spun off in response to this incredible book. I lay it before the world, because I’m finished hiding, finished knuckling under to what it supposedly necessary…or at least I claim I am. Until, five minutes from now, I return to segmenting sections of my life away from others because I am afraid of what they’ll think or how they’ll react…continuing to leave parts of my life in shadows…crippling myself before others can seek to listen and enter in. My life is mystifying, human existence is mystifying, and because I can sit down and in an hour experience these deep, visceral emotions and thoughts because of words printed on a page, I must consider the possibility of a reality bigger than myself that gave me the complex, creative ability to respond to another’s complex, creative ability…the hungering for life beyond the drudgery of the day-to-day, the struggle of progress, the giving-in and slow attrition of laziness, and the commitment to actions of fragmentation, calling twisted temptations “natural” and choosing to regress.
It is in that regress that the only thing that separates me and Cho-Seung Hui is a difference of degree of evil. I am a walking wounded, and my continuance in such a wounded state without the pursuit of healing wounds others by extension as we rub shoulders and they move on to rub shoulders with others, touched by me in ways they (nor I) understand. I do not have the cold metal of the Walther and the Glock in my hands, dispassionately erasing the lives of others with cold efficiency, but I do have the cold reality of self-centeredness, of cynicism, of all the “oughts” that enslave me; and they do kill (maybe physically someday). But for now they kill insidiously and incrementally, in my cold, suspicious looks, in my desire and commitment for my own way, in my self-righteous exaltation of myself over the “disgusting, inhumane, evil” acts of Cho as if I am not capable of the same, in my laughter at the failures of others, in my hatred of those who hate and/or kill those closest to me without considering that they may hate/kill because those most like me hated/killed first. Do I have the right to hold court over them, then, knowing that even if I do not carry out an evil act with my own two hands, I can be just as complicit when I stand idly by and do nothing while evil is carried out? But I have to do what is “necessary,” don’t I? I have to busy myself with what I “need” to do, love or some other transcendent emotion or action only goes so far before I must put my foot down, must assert my individuality and right to fullness of life over others?
Bleh. I’m done for now. Back to the “necessary.” I’ve already spent too much time in the theoretical, and that is dangerous, both for my academic life and the leaders who depend on my unthinking obedience to their expectations in order to maintain order in society…