FictionForest

PART EIGHT : Chapter 19

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

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Going out of the nursery and being
again alone, Levin went back at once to the thought,
in which there was something not clear.

Instead of going into the drawing
room, where he heard voices, he stopped on the terrace,
and leaning his elbows on the parapet, he gazed up
at the sky.

It was quite dark now, and in the
south, where he was looking, there were no clouds. 
The storm had drifted on to the opposite side of
the sky, and there were flashes of lightning and distant
thunder from that quarter.  Levin listened to
the monotonous drip from the lime trees in the garden,
and looked at the triangle of stars he knew so well,
and the Milky Way with its branches that ran through
its midst.  At each flash of lightning the Milky
Way, and even the bright stars, vanished, but as soon
as the lightning died away, they reappeared in their
places as though some hand had flung them back with
careful aim.

“Well, what is it perplexes
me?” Levin said to himself, feeling beforehand
that the solution of his difficulties was ready in
his soul, though he did not know it yet.  “Yes,
the one unmistakable, incontestable manifestation
of the Divinity is the law of right and wrong, which
has come into the world by revelation, and which I
feel in myself, and in the recognition of which ­I
don’t make myself, but whether I will or not ­I
am made one with other men in one body of believers,
which is called the church.  Well, but the Jews,
the Mohammedans, the Confucians, the Buddhists ­what
of them?” he put to himself the question he
had feared to face.  “Can these hundreds
of millions of men be deprived of that highest blessing
without which life has no meaning?” He pondered
a moment, but immediately corrected himself. 
“But what am I questioning?” he said to
himself.  “I am questioning the relation
to Divinity of all the different religions of all mankind. 
I am questioning the universal manifestation of God
to all the world with all those misty blurs. 
What am I about?  To me individually, to my
heart has been revealed a knowledge beyond all doubt,
and unattainable by reason, and here I am obstinately
trying to express that knowledge in reason and words.

“Don’t I know that the
stars don’t move?” he asked himself, gazing
at the bright planet which had shifted its position
up to the topmost twig of the birch-tree.  “But
looking at the movements of the stars, I can’t
picture to myself the rotation of the earth, and I’m
right in saying that the stars move.

“And could the astronomers have
understood and calculated anything, if they had taken
into account all the complicated and varied motions
of the earth?  All the marvelous conclusions they
have reached about the distances, weights, movements,
and deflections of the heavenly bodies are only founded
on the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies about
a stationary earth, on that very motion I see before
me now, which has been so for millions of men during
long ages, and was and will be always alike, and can
always be trusted.  And just as the conclusions
of the astronomers would have been vain and uncertain
if not founded on observations of the seen heavens,
in relation to a single meridian and a single horizon,
so would my conclusions be vain and uncertain if not
founded on that conception of right, which has been
and will be always alike for all men, which has been
revealed to me as a Christian, and which can always
be trusted in my soul.  The question of other
religions and their relations to Divinity I have no
right to decide, and no possibility of deciding.”

“Oh, you haven’t gone
in then?” he heard Kitty’s voice all at
once, as she came by the same way to the drawing-room.

“What is it? you’re not
worried about anything?” she said, looking intently
at his face in the starlight.

But she could not have seen his face
if a flash of lightning had not hidden the stars and
revealed it.  In that flash she saw his face
distinctly, and seeing him calm and happy, she smiled
at him.

“She understands,” he
thought; “she knows what I’m thinking
about.  Shall I tell her or not?  Yes, I’ll
tell her.”  But at the moment he was about
to speak, she began speaking.

“Kostya! do something for me,”
she said; “go into the corner room and see if
they’ve made it all right for Sergey Ivanovitch. 
I can’t very well.  See if they’ve
put the new wash stand in it.”

“Very well, I’ll go directly,”
said Levin, standing up and kissing her.

“No, I’d better not speak
of it,” he thought, when she had gone in before
him.  “It is a secret for me alone, of vital
importance for me, and not to be put into words.

“This new feeling has not changed
me, has not made me happy and enlightened all of a
sudden, as I had dreamed, just like the feeling for
my child.  There was no surprise in this either. 
Faith ­or not faith ­I don’t
know what it is ­but this feeling has come
just as imperceptibly through suffering, and has taken
firm root in my soul.

“I shall go on in the same way,
losing my temper with Ivan the coachman, falling into
angry discussions, expressing my opinions tactlessly;
there will be still the same wall between the holy
of holies of my soul and other people, even my wife;
I shall still go on scolding her for my own terror,
and being remorseful for it; I shall still be as unable
to understand with my reason why I pray, and I shall
still go on praying; but my life now, my whole life
apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute
of it is no more meaningless, as it was before, but
it has the positive meaning of goodness, which I have
the power to put into it.”

 

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