Karamazov Brothers Book Six: This guy knows what he is doing

butterflyBook Six is actually fairly short. And at first seems completely random. (I feel like I am back reading Infinite Jest!) But, Dostoyevsky did not get to be a big time classic writer for nothing.

Basically this section is Alyosha’s recounting of Father Zosima’s life. As with the Grand Inquisitor, Dostoyevsky basically uses Alyosha as a conduit:

Here I ought to point out that this final conversation of the starets with his visitors on the last day of his life has been only partially recorded. Aleksei Fyodorovich Karamazov wrote it down from memory some time after the starets’s death.

The life of Father Zosima seems to be the “answer” to the Grand Inquisitor. The staret (Father Zosima) started out in life like any kid at the time. His brother became ill and was like a hero to the tiny staret. Father Z. did most (or what I assume are) of the usual things one does while growing up – went to school, got into trouble, joined the army. Here is where things go bad for Z.

Drunkenness, rowdiness, and bravado were almost something to be proud of. I can’t say that we were wicked; all those young people were good, but they behaved badly, and I was the worst of all.

He gets himself into some Alexander Hamilton-like troubles (have I mentioned how much I love Lin-Manuel Miranda….I digress). Through some mishaps, a duel gets set up. And Z. realizes that he can’t go on with his life on the path it’s going. He (somewhat) cleverly gets himself out of the duel and saves face and preserves the integrity of his opponent. At this point, he has basically found religion.

What I found interesting was that he speaks of having a story-book of religious stories as a child and being fascinated with them. (He still had a copy of it on his shelf.) What’s interesting is that he is pulled to the parables and stories, and not so much from a lightning strike from the divine. This also gives Dostoyevsky a chance to show off his religious and bible chops by talking about and quoting the Bible.

Two quotes that intrigued me. One was:

And so it is not surprising that instead of being free, people have become enslaved, and instead of serving the cause of brotherly love and human harmony, they have, as my mysterious visitor and teacher once told me in my youth, fallen into disharmony and isolation.

The Grand Inquisitor spoke about freedom and how man can be free by just trusting the powers that be. And Father Z. is basically saying the opposite. What I find really fascinating though is that this can completely apply to today. Use this quote in context of social media and BOOM. One could make the argument that people are more isolated and lonely and in disharmony with the advent of Facebook (and the like) when it was thought of as something to bring people together. These are basic human problems – they existed in 1890, and exist in 2018. It’s fascinating to me to see that authors can get to the crux of humanity and be so insightful and prescient, and it’s what makes them good at their job.

The second quote is this:

My brother, young though he was, asked the little birds for pardon: that might seem senseless, but he was right, because everything is like an ocean, everything flows and intermingles, you have only to touch it in one place and it will reverberate in another part of the world.

I am interested in spirituality, meditation and buddhism as a concept. This reverberation seems to be something that rings true in the teachings of Buddha. And this idea that what you do here will have an effect somewhere else is both mindfulness and (kinda sorta) social contract. You need to be responsible for your actions here and now and understand how they affect others – somewhere else. Obviously I am not familiar with how things were thought of in 1890, but this seems to me to be a fairly forward thinking concept for the time.

And then, this is where Dostoyevsky does his thing…we hear all about Father Z and his life, we forget about the story then at the end:

But we shall speak of this later, in the next book; for the present, we shall merely add that even before the day was out something had happened which was so unexpected and, judging by the effect both within the monastic community and in the town, so strange, alarming, and perplexing that even now, all these years later, our town still preserves the most vivid memories of that day, which left so many of its inhabitants filled with alarm.

What? Talk about generating interest for people to read on….it’s like the Bachelor <to be read in Chris Harrison’s voice>: Coming up….the most exciting episode of the Brother’s Karamaozv ever!

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