Monday, January 21, 2008

Dostoevsky on Despair

In book two, chapter six of The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan tells the Elder Zosima about an article he wrote about the consequences of the exhaustion of men’s faith in the immortality of the soul. Zosima contends that Ivan likely did not himself believe a word of what he wrote, to which Ivan responds that he wasn’t entirely joking either. Zosima then tells him: “You weren’t quite joking, that is true. This idea is not yet resolved in your head and torments it. But a martyr, too, sometimes like to toy with his despair, also from despair, as it were. For the time being you, too, are toying, out of despair, with your magazine articles and drawing-room discussions, without believing in your own dialectics and smirking at them with your heart aching inside you… The question is not resolved in you, and there lies your great grief, for it urgently demands resolution…” Ivan asks if it can be resolved in a positive way, to which Zosima replies: “Even if it cannot be resolved in a positive way, it will never be resolved in the negative way either – you yourself know this property of your heart, and therein lies the whole of its torment. But thank the Creator that he has given you a lofty heart, capable of being tormented by such a torment.”

No comments: