On Russian Literature and beauty


I’ll admit, my exposure to Russian literature lays within the bounds of Tolstoy,Dostoyevsky. and Solzhenitsyn. I am in no way any type of expert, nor do I claim to be. So understand that the following treatise is limited at best.

That being said … I have found that the way these three men, representative of two very different Russia’s, have a way with the written word that few other cultures seem to have. Watching again the most recently adaptation of “Anna Karenina”I am taken away with the depth of things the author says without actually saying them. Those words … things like, “Divorce is one thing — dinner is another,” or, “I thank God the curse of love is lifted from me,” or even this: “He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.” Beautiful. And as you continue to read, you catch the heart of Tolstoy … you heart hears the heart of Tolstoy. This book is stunningly deep and relevant and lives still because Tolstoy chose to live in the words he put down on the page. They took on their own life, in the moment, and continue to resonate through the years. 

I recently heard Don Miller (In case you don’t know who he is) say that if you write with the thought of the grandeur and glory and money, you will lose the love of the craft. Writing is something that resonates in the soul. And the practice of writing — the discipline — somehow has the tendency to get lost in the economics of it all. Somewhere between the actual putting down of words on paper, and creating characters and setting that last for hundreds of years, there is this sweet spot where the hard work of writing takes place.

I, for one, struggle to live there. Writing was always second nature to me, so when it came to actually trying … I was at a loss. I think, like so many things that become “function” in life, I lost sight of what was truly important. And it was easy for me to remember the “glory days” when words came like summer rain — powerful, torrentially and left pools for me to splash around in for days after. 

As I got older, words became a way to future glory. “If only I could …” because a phrase that brought me false comfort and caused me to waste time dreaming that I should have spent writing. Not that dreaming is bad in and of itself. But when it provides an outlet to simply keep you from doing what you “should” be doing (a distraction), then it loses all it’s benefit. My “someday” kept me from concentrating on what needed to be done in the here and now. 

That’s what NOT living in the moment brings us. We are creatures that tend to default to either side of the present. The line that is “the now” is tiny and difficult to walk when we look and notice there is so much space on both the past and the future side of it. And while that concept can be dragged to extremes (it’s kind of what got Anna and Vronsky in trouble), living in the moment actually gives perspective to what was, and lays a healthier foundation for what is to come. 

What am I saying? Living in the moment is a continuing, constant struggle for me. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. I desire to “walk the line” when it comes to experiences and energy and desire, because right now is the only sure thing we are given. To truly be present and breathe in all that is right in front of me makes me appreciate my life and those who are a part of it more fully. I want to be focused, taking mental snapshots of people and things I love that are blessing me right now. My third born headed to college. My time alone with the youngest. My dad. My husband. Vicariously experiencing the things my older two are as they are so faithful at staying in touch on a daily basis, and sharing the part of their lives that I cannot be a part of because of physical distance.  Living — truly living – in the right now.

I also think I fell back in love with language today, and how it works within the process of writing. The words, the phrases … they brought to me sight and sound and feeling. And I was reminded of how powerful a well placed turn of phrase and such can be. It literally moved me. 

One of the most famous quotes comes when Anna asks why Vronsky loves her. He tells her, “You can’t ask WHY about love!”I think there are many things in life like that. We as humans have this desire to love things we don’t understand. Be they supernatural (as in faith) or creative (as in abstract art) or affairs of the heart (we can say we love this or that in our significant other, but isn’t there always “something more” we cannot articulate?). My love for Russian literature falls under that nebulous category of “Things I can’t quite place my finger on”. And today, that “love” moved me into other realizations.

It truly is a beautiful thing. 



2 responses »

  1. There is some beautiful writing here that touches my heart – when words came like summer rain, and the line of the present that falls between the future and the past – perfect, beautiful thoughts. I think I will join you in reading some Russian literature. Have been trying to explore more of the classics anyway, so you have inspired me in my next adventure!

  2. I agree with you. Beauty in the words of Tolstoy. Thankful that he took the time to write it down. I suffer from inertia and am ashamed to admit it. The perfectionist part of me grabs hands with inertia and I really have a problem. Working on this. Thank you for your words today. Needed to hear them.

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