Monday, March 24, 2008

A Slight Haze in the Head

From Tolstoy's Anna Karenina:
Stepan Arkadyich subscribed to and read a liberal newspaper, not an extreme one, but one with the tendency to which the majority held. And though neither science, nor art, nor politics itself interested him, he firmly held the same views on all these subjects as the majority and his newspaper did, and changed them only when the majority did, or, rather, he did not change them, but they themselves changed imperceptibly in him.

Stepan Arkadyich chose neither his tendency nor his views, but these tendencies and views came to him themselves, just as he did not choose the shape of a hat or a frock coat, but bought those that were in fashion. And for him, who lived in a certain circle, and who required some mental activity such as usually develops with maturity, having views was as necessary as having a hat. If there was a reason why he preferred the liberal tendency to the conservative one (also held to by many in his circle), it was not because he found the liberal tendency more sensible, but because it more closely suited his manner of life. The liberal party said that marriage was an obsolete institution and was in need of reform, and indeed family life gave Stepan Arkadyich little pleasure and forced him to lie and pretend, which was so contrary to his nature. The liberal party said, or, rather, implied that religion with just a bridle for the barbarous part of the population, and indeed Stepan Arkadyich could not even stand through a short prayer service without aching feet and could not grasp the point of all these fearsome and high-flown words about the other world, when life in this one could be so merry. At the same time, Stepan Arkadyich, who liked a merry joke, sometimes took pleasure in startling some simple soul by saying that if you want pride yourself in your lineage, why stop at Rurik and renounce your first progenitor – the ape? And so the liberal tendency became a habit with Stepan Arkadyich, and he liked his newspaper, as he like a cigar after dinner, for the slight haze it produced in his head.
These words were written over 130 years ago. The more things change...

2 comments:

Zac said...

I am beginning to suspect that Patrick Barnes is right about your blog-- truly one of the best in the Orthodox blogosphere.

Felix Culpa said...

Thanks very much for your kind comment!