What designates a classic work of literature from the ordinary is the author’s ability to awaken a reader’s mind to otherwise veiled realities. These insights, brought forth by the writer, pull at our emotions, move us to action, provoke us to face our assumptions, lead us inward toward our common humanity. And these works, the unforgettable ones, span generations, resonating with future readers. Times change; societies evolve or collapse; we advance. Yet we are still human, sharing the same sentimentalism. That’s why we cheer the heroism of Atticus Finch, or sympathize with Abdulrahman Zeitoun, or shudder at the brutality of Dick Hickock and Perry Smith.
In “Brothers Karamazov”, Father Zossima’s Mysterious Visitor, brought to life around 125 years ago by Dostoyevsky, reaches into my mind and drops this thought, a monologue explaining man’s tight-rope walk between individuality and isolation:
“Everyone strives to keep his individuality, everyone wants to secure the greatest possible fullness of life for himself. But meantime all his efforts result not in attaining fullness of life but self-destruction, for instead of self-realization he ends by arriving at complete solitude. [Man] hides himself and hides what he has, from the rest. He ends by being repelled by others and repelling them. He heaps up riches by himself and thinks, ‘How strong I am now and how secure’. And in his madness he does not understand that the more he heaps up, the more he sinks into self-destructive impotence… He has trained himself not to believe in the help of others, in men and in humanity, and only trembles for fear he should lose his money and the privileges that he has won for himself. … [T]rue security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual effort.”
This book is blowing my f#$ing mind.