FictionForest

PART EIGHT : Chapter 13

Leo TolstoyAug 26, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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And Levin remembered a scene he had
lately witnessed between Dolly and her children. 
The children, left to themselves, had begun cooking
raspberries over the candles and squirting milk into
each other’s mouths with a syringe.  Their
mother, catching them at these pranks, began reminding
them in Levin’s presence of the trouble their
mischief gave to the grown-up people, and that this
trouble was all for their sake, and that if they smashed
the cups they would have nothing to drink their tea
out of, and that if they wasted the milk, they would
have nothing to eat, and die of hunger.

And Levin had been struck by the passive,
weary incredulity with which the children heard what
their mother said to them.  They were simply
annoyed that their amusing play had been interrupted,
and did not believe a word of what their mother was
saying.  They could not believe it indeed, for
they could not take in the immensity of all they habitually
enjoyed, and so could not conceive that what they
were destroying was the very thing they lived by.

“That all comes of itself,”
they thought, “and there’s nothing interesting
or important about it because it has always been so,
and always will be so.  And it’s all always
the same.  We’ve no need to think about
that, it’s all ready.  But we want to invent
something of our own, and new.  So we thought
of putting raspberries in a cup, and cooking them
over a candle, and squirting milk straight into each
other’s mouths.  That’s fun, and
something new, and not a bit worse than drinking out
of cups.”

“Isn’t it just the same
that we do, that I did, searching by the aid of reason
for the significance of the forces of nature and the
meaning of the life of man?” he thought.

“And don’t all the theories
of philosophy do the same, trying by the path of thought,
which is strange and not natural to man, to bring
him to a knowledge of what he has known long ago, and
knows so certainly that he could not live at all without
it?  Isn’t it distinctly to be seen in
the development of each philosopher’s theory,
that he knows what is the chief significance of life
beforehand, just as positively as the peasant Fyodor,
and not a bit more clearly than he, and is simply
trying by a dubious intellectual path to come back
to what everyone knows?

“Now then, leave the children
to themselves to get things alone and make their crockery,
get the milk from the cows, and so on.  Would
they be naughty then?  Why, they’d die of
hunger!  Well, then, leave us with our passions
and thoughts, without any idea of the one God, of
the Creator, or without any idea of what is right,
without any idea of moral evil.

“Just try and build up anything without those
ideas!

“We only try to destroy them,
because we’re spiritually provided for. 
Exactly like the children!

“Whence have I that joyful knowledge,
shared with the peasant, that alone gives peace to
my soul?  Whence did I get it?

“Brought up with an idea of
God, a Christian, my whole life filled with the spiritual
blessings Christianity has given me, full of them,
and living on those blessings, like the children I
did not understand them, and destroy, that is try to
destroy, what I live by.  And as soon as an important
moment of life comes, like the children when they
are cold and hungry, I turn to Him, and even less
than the children when their mother scolds them for
their childish mischief, do I feel that my childish
efforts at wanton madness are reckoned against me.

“Yes, what I know, I know not
by reason, but it has been given to me, revealed to
me, and I know it with my heart, by faith in the chief
thing taught by the church.

“The church! the church!”
Levin repeated to himself.  He turned over on
the other side, and leaning on his elbow, fell to gazing
into the distance at a herd of cattle crossing over
to the river.

“But can I believe in all the
church teaches?” he thought, trying himself,
and thinking of everything that could destroy his
present peace of mind.  Intentionally he recalled
all those doctrines of the church which had always
seemed most strange and had always been a stumbling
block to him.

“The Creation?  But how
did I explain existence?  By existence? 
By nothing?  The devil and sin.  But how
do I explain evil?…  The atonement?…

“But I know nothing, nothing,
and I can know nothing but what has been told to me
and all men.”

And it seemed to him that there was
not a single article of faith of the church which
could destroy the chief thing ­faith in God,
in goodness, as the one goal of man’s destiny.

Under every article of faith of the
church could be put the faith in the service of truth
instead of one’s desires.  And each doctrine
did not simply leave that faith unshaken, each doctrine
seemed essential to complete that great miracle, continually
manifest upon earth, that made it possible for each
man and millions of different sorts of men, wise men
and imbéciles, old men and children ­all
men, peasants, Lvov, Kitty, beggars and kings to understand
perfectly the same one thing, and to build up thereby
that life of the soul which alone is worth living,
and which alone is precious to us.

Lying on his back, he gazed up now
into the high, cloudless sky.  “Do I not
know that that is infinite space, and that it is not
a round arch?  But, however I screw up my eyes
and strain my sight, I cannot see it not round and
not bounded, and in spite of my knowing about infinite
space, I am incontestably right when I see a solid
blue dome, and more right than when I strain my eyes
to see beyond it.”

Levin ceased thinking, and only, as
it were, listened to mysterious voices that seemed
talking joyfully and earnestly within him.

“Can this be faith?” he
thought, afraid to believe in his happiness. 
“My God, I thank Thee!” he said, gulping
down his sobs, and with both hands brushing away the
tears that filled his eyes.

 

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