November 20, 2011

Anna Karenina

Last winter a very good friend left an 800 page book on my doorstep.

I'm not a fast reader. Luckily it turned out to be a pretty long winter.

I carried my 800 page book everywhere. My daughter never leaves the house without a book. So I copied her, and never left the house without Tolstoy. My rate of progress was pathetic, but the book kept me warm.

I learned about 19th century Russian society, about Kitty and Levin, about Anna and Vronsky, and about St. Petersburg vs. Moscow. I learned that in the olden days, families had a day-of-the-week designated for accepting visitors. Society had a code, and people followed it. Well, only some people - and therein lies the story.

Anna Karenina is most often described as story about a love affair. But to me, the story was about Levin and his constant tendency to overthink everything. So before I returned the beastly book to my friend, I photocopied a few key passages...
And I and millions of people who lived ages ago and are living now, the poor in spirit, and the wise men who have thought and written about it, saying the same thing in their vague language - we're all agreed on this one thing: what we should live for and what is good. I and all people have only one firm unquestionable and clear knowledge, and this knowledge cannot be explained by reason - it is outside it, and has no causes, and can have no consequences. If the good has a cause, it is no longer the good; if it has a consequence - a reward - it is also not the good. Therefore the good is outside the chain of cause and effect. And I know it, and we all know it.
He goes on to deliberate on the concepts of good, bad, thought, reason, and their various interrelationships. His deliberations turned out to be worth toting around.

So why am I writing this and what do I conclude? Well, if I'm writing this because I think it's good to publish a post about large books, or because I've reasoned myself into thinking that it's good for others to read this blog post - then Levin would call me a sham. So I'm glad I met Levin, because it's never a bad idea to question your intentions.

1 comment:

Dennis Crow said...

It's kinda tough when the opening of a book is so good that the rest doesn't quite live up to it. You're quote is also quite good, certainly in the context of Fichte, Hegel, Marx, Engels and most of all Nietzsche and Heidegger. Simply answering the questions 'what is' or 'who am I' are the core of the most powerful practices of consciousness on the planet. Is it 'form' vs 'void' or are these two not-two? THAT is the question.