Monday, May 5, 2008

Fyodor Dostoevsky - The Dream Of a Ridiculous Man

Now, what can one say about Fyodor Dostoevsky, the master of masters? For me, along with the other great russian Leo Tolstoy, he's the best writer ever. His novels and short stories, even his own life, have Literature written all over them. Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov and The Possessed, sit at the top of the table of the best novels ever written. I am no scholar, not even a book critic, but i do believe that Dostoevsky gave more to literature than any other writer. Here's, for you, The Dream Of a Ridiculous Man:

Translated by Constance Garnett.

I am a ridiculous person. Now they call me a madman. Thatwould be a promotion if it were not that I remain as ridiculous in their eyes as before. But now I do not resent it,they are all dear to me now, even when they laugh at me -and, indeed, it is just then that they are particularly dear to me. I could join in their laughter - not exactly at myself, but through affection for them, if I did not feel so sad as I look at them. Sad because they do not know the truth and I do know it. Oh, how hard it is to be the only one who knows the truth! But they won't understand that. No, they won't understand it. In old days I used to be miserable at seeming ridiculous. Not seeming, but being. I have always been ridiculous, and I have known it, perhaps, from the hour I was born. Perhaps from the time I was seven years old I knew I was ridiculous. Afterwards I went to school, studied at the university, and, do you know, the more I learned, the more thoroughly I understood that I was ridiculous. So that it seemed in the end as though all the sciences I studied at the university existed only to prove and make evident to me as I went more deeply into them that I was ridiculous. It was the same with life as it was with science. With every year the same consciousness of the ridiculous figure I cut in every relation grew and strengthened. Everyone always laughed at me. But not one of them knew or guessed that if there were one man on earth who knew better than anybody else that I was absurd, it was myself, and what I resented most of all was that they did not know that. But that was my own fault; I was so proud that nothing would have ever induced me to tell it to anyone. This pride grew in me with the years; and if it had happened that I allowed myself to confess to anyone that I was ridiculous, I believe that I should have blown out my brains the same evening. Oh, how I suffered in my early youth from the fear that I might give way and confess it to my schoolfellows. But since I grew to manhood, I have for some unknown reason become calmer, though I realised my awful characteristic more fully every year. I say 'unknown', for to this day I cannot tell why it was. Perhaps it was owing to the terrible misery that was growing in my soul through something which was of more consequence than anything else about me: that something was the conviction that had come upon me that nothing in the world mattered. I had longhad an inkling of it, but the full realisation came last year almost suddenly. I suddenly felt that it was all the same to me whether the world existed or whether there had never been anything at all: I began to feel with all my being that there was nothing existing. At first I fancied that many things had existed in the past, but afterwards I guessed that there never had been anything in the past either, but that it had only seemed so for some reason. Little by little I guessed that there would be nothing in the future either. Then I left off being angry with people and almost ceased to notice them. Indeed this showed itself even in the pettiest trifles: I used, for instance, to knock against people in the street. And not so much from being lost in thought: what had I to think about? I had almost given up thinking by that time; nothing mattered to me. If at least I had solved myproblems! Oh, I had not settled one of them, and how many there were! But I gave up caring about anything, and all the problems disappeared. And it was after that that I found out the truth. I learnt the truth last November - on the third of November, to be precise- and I remember every instant since. It was a gloomy evening, one of the gloomiest possible evenings. I was going home at about eleven o'clock, and I remember that I thought that the evening could not be gloomier. Even physically. Rain had been falling all day, and it had been a cold, gloomy, almost menacing rain, with, I remember, an unmistakable spite against mankind. Suddenly between ten and eleven it had stopped, and was followed by a horrible dampness, colder and damper than the rain, and a sort of steam was rising from everything, from every stone in the street, and from every by-lane if one looked down it as far as one could. A thought suddenly occurred to me, that if all the streetlamps had been put out it would have been less cheerless, that the gas made one's heart sadder because it lighted it all up. I had had scarcely any dinner that day, and had been spending the evening with an engineer, and two other friends had been there also. I sat silent - I fancy I bored them. They talked of something rousing and suddenly they got excited over it. But they did not really care, I could see that, and only made a show of being excited. I suddenly said as much to them. "My friends," I said, "you really do not care one way or the other." They were not offended, but they laughed at me. That was because I spoke without any not of reproach, simply because it did not matter to me. They saw it did not, and it amused them. As I was thinking about the gas lamps in the street I looked up at the sky. The sky was horribly dark, but one could distinctly see tattered clouds, and between them fathomless black patches. Suddenly I noticed in one of these patches a star, and began watching it intently. That was because that star had given me an idea: I decided to kill myself that night. I had firmly determined to do so two months before, and poor as I was, I bought a splendid revolver that very day, and loaded it. But two months had passed and it was still lying in my drawer; I was so utterly indifferent that I wanted to seize a moment when I would not be so indifferent - why, I don't know. And so for two months every night that I came home I thought I would shoot myself. I kept waiting for the right moment. And so now this star gave me a thought. I made up my mind that it should certainly be that night. And why the star gave me the thought I don't know. And just as I was looking at the sky, this little girl took me by the elbow. The street was empty, and there was scarcely anyone to be seen. A cabman was sleeping in the distance in his cab. It was a child of eight with a kerchief on her head,wearing nothing but a wretched little dress all soaked with rain, but I noticed her wet broken shoes and I recall them now. They caught my eye particularly. She suddenly pulled me by the elbow and called me. She was not weeping, but was spasmodically crying out some words which could not utter properly, because she was shivering and shuddering all over. She was in terror about something, and kept crying,"Mammy, mammy!" I turned facing her, I did not say a word and went on; but she ran, pulling at me, and there was that note in her voice which in frightened children means despair. I know that sound. Though she did not articulate the words, I understood that her mother was dying, or that something of the sort was happening to them, and that she had run out to call someone, to find something to help her mother. I did not go with her; on the contrary, I had an impulse to drive her away. I told her first to go to a policeman. But clasping her hands, she ran beside me sobbing and gasping, and would not leave me. Then I stamped my foot and shouted at her. She called out "Sir! sir! . . ." but suddenly abandoned me and rushed headlong across the road. Some other passerby appeared there, and she evidently flew from me to him. I mounted up to my fifth storey. I have a room in a flat where there are other lodgers. My room is small and poor, with a garret window in the shape of a semicircle. I have a sofa covered with American leather, a table with books on it, two chairs and a comfortable arm-chair, as old as old can be, but of the good old-fashioned shape. I sat down, lighted the candle, and began thinking. In the room next to mine, through the partition wall, a perfect Bedlam was going on. It had been going on for the last three days. A retired captain lived there, and he had half a dozen visitors, gentlemen of doubtful reputation, drinking vodka and playing stoss with old cards. The night before there had been a fight, and I know that two of them had been for a long time engaged in dragging each other about by the hair. The landlady wanted to complain, but she was in abject terror of the captain. There was only one other lodger in the flat, a thin little regimental lady, on a visit to Petersburg, with three little children who had been taken ill since they came into the lodgings. Both she and her children were in mortal fear of the captain, and lay trembling and crossing themselves all night, and the youngest child had a sort of fit from fright. That captain, I know for a fact, sometimes stops people in theNevsky Prospect and begs. They won't take him into the service, but strange to say (that's why I am telling this), all this month that the captain has been here his behaviour has caused me no annoyance. I have, of course, tried to avoid his acquaintance from the very beginning, and he, too, was bored with me from the first; but I never care how much they shout the other side of the partition nor how many of them there are in there: I sit up all night and forget them so completely that I do not even hear them. I stay awake till daybreak, and have been going on like that for the last year. I sit up all night in my arm-chair at the table, doing nothing. I only read by day. I sit - don't even think; ideas of a sort wander through my mind and I let them come and go as they will. A whole candle is burnt every night. I sat down quietly at the table, took out the revolver and put it down before me. When I had put it down I asked myself, I remember, "Is that so?" and answered with complete conviction, "It is." That is, I shall shoot myself. I knew that I should shoot myself that night for certain, but how much longer I should go on sitting at the table I did not know. And no doubt I should have shot myself if it had not been for that little girl.

You see, though nothing mattered to me, I could feel pain, for instance. If anyone had stuck me it would have hurt me. It was the same morally: if anything very pathetic happened, I should have felt pity just as I used to do in old days when there were things in life that did matter to me. I had felt pity that evening. I should have certainly helped a child. Why, then, had I not helped the little girl? Because of an idea that occurred to me at the time: when she was calling and pulling at me, a question suddenly arose before me and I could not settle it. The question was an idle one, but I was vexed. I was vexed at the reflection that if I were going to make an end of myself that night, nothing in life ought to have mattered to me. Why was it that all at once I did not feel a strange pang, quite incongruous in my position. Really I do not know better how to convey my fleeting sensation at the moment, but the sensation persisted at home when I was sitting at the table, and I was very much irritated as I had not been for a long time past. One reflection followed another. I saw clearly that so long as I was still a human being and not nothingness, I was alive and so could suffer, be angry and feel shame at my actions. So be it. But if I am going to kill myself, in two hours, say, what is the little girl to me and what have I to do with shame or with anything else in the world? I shall turn into nothing, absolutely nothing. And can it really be true that the consciousness that I shall completely cease to exist immediately and so everything else will cease to exist, does not in the least affect my feeling of pity for the child nor the feeling of shame after a contemptible action? I stamped and shouted at the unhappy child as though to say - not only I feel no pity, but even if I behave inhumanly and contemptibly, I am free to, for in another two hours everything will be extinguished. Do you believe that that was why I shouted that? I am almost convinced of it now. It seemed clear to me that life and the world somehow depended upon me now. I may almost say that the world now seemed created for me alone: if I shot myself the world would cease to be at least for me. I say nothing of its being likely that nothing will exist for anyone when I am gone, and that as soon as my consciousness is extinguished the whole world will vanish too and become void like a phantom, as a mere appurtenance of my consciousness, for possibly all this world and all these people are only me myself. I remember that as I sat and reflected, I turned all these new questions that swarmed one after another quite the other way, and thought of something quite new. For instance, a strange reflection suddenly occurred to me, that if I had lived before on the moon or on Mars and there had committed the most disgraceful and dishonourable action and had there been put to such shame and ignominy as one can only conceive and realise in dreams, in nightmares, and if, finding myself afterwards on earth, I were able to retain the memory of what I had done on the other planet and at the same time knew that I should never, under any circumstances, return there, then looking from the earth to the moon - should I care or not? Should I feel shame for that action or not? These were idle and superfluous questions for the revolver was already lying before me, and I knew in every fibre of my being that it would happen for certain, but they excited me and I raged. I could not die now without having first settled something. In short, the child had saved me, for I put off my pistol shot for the sake of these questions. Meanwhile the clamour had begun to subside in the captain's room: they had finished their game, were settling down to sleep, and meanwhile were grumbling and languidly winding up their quarrels. At that point, I suddenlyfell asleep in my chair at the table - a thing which had neverhappened to me before. I dropped asleep quite unawares. Dreams, as we all know, are very queer things: some partsare presented with appalling vividness, with details workedup with the elaborate finish of jewellery, while others onegallops through, as it were, without noticing them at all, as,for instance, through space and time. Dreams seem to bespurred on not by reason but by desire, not by the head butby the heart, and yet what complicated tricks my reason hasplayed sometimes in dreams, what utterly incomprehensiblethings happen to it! Mr brother died five years ago, forinstance. I sometimes dream of him; he takes part in myaffairs, we are very much interested, and yet all through mydream I quite know and remember that my brother is deadand buried. How is it that I am not surprised that, though heis dead, he is here beside me and working with me? Why isit that my reason fully accepts it? But enough. I will beginabout my dream. Yes, I dreamed a dream, my dream of thethird of November. They tease me now, telling me it wasonly a dream. But does it matter whether it was a dream orreality, if the dream made known to me the truth? If onceone has recognized the truth and seen it, you know that it isthe truth and that there is no other and there cannot be,whether you are asleep or awake. Let it be a dream, so be it,but that real life of which you make so much I had meant toextinguish by suicide, and my dream, my dream - oh, itrevealed to me a different life, renewed, grand and full ofpower! Listen.

I have mentioned that I dropped asleep unawares and evenseemed to be still reflecting on the same subjects. I suddenlydreamt that I picked up the revolver and aimed it straight atmy heart - my heart, and not my head; and I had determinedbeforehand to fire at my head, at my right temple. Afteraiming at my chest I waited a second or two, and suddenlymy candle, my table, and the wall in front of me beganmoving and heaving. I made haste to pull the trigger. In dreams you sometimes fall from a height, or arestabbed, or beaten, but you never feel pain unless, perhaps,you really bruise yourself against the bedstead, then you feelpain and almost always wake up from it. It was the same inmy dream. I did not feel any pain, but it seemed as thoughwith my shot everything within me was shaken andeverything was suddenly dimmed, and it grew horribly blackaround me. I seemed to be blinded, and it benumbed, and Iwas lying on something hard, stretched on my back; I sawnothing, and could not make the slightest movement. Peoplewere walking and shouting around me, the captain bawled,the landlady shrieked - and suddenly another break and I wasbeing carried in a closed coffin. And I felt how the coffinwas shaking and reflected upon it, and for the first time theidea struck me that I was dead, utterly dead, I knew it andhad no doubt of it, I could neither see nor move and yet I wasfeeling and reflecting. But I was soon reconciled to theposition, and as one usually does in a dream, accepted thefacts without disputing them. And now I was buried in the earth. They all went away, Iwas left alone, utterly alone. I did not move. Wheneverbefore I had imagined being buried the one sensation Iassociated with the grave was that of damp and cold. So nowI felt that I was very cold, especially the tips of my toes, butI felt nothing else. I lay still, strange to say I expected nothing, acceptingwithout dispute that a dead man had nothing to expect. Butit was damp. I don't know how long a time passed - whetheran hour or several days, or many days. But all at once a dropof water fell on my closed left eye, making its way throughthe coffin lid; it was followed a minute later by a second,then a minute later by a third - and so on, regularly everyminute. There was a sudden glow of profound indignation inmy heart, and I suddenly felt in it a pang of physical pain. "That's my wound," I thought; "that's the bullet . . ." Anddrop after drop every minute kept falling on my closedeyelid. And all at once, not with my voice, but with myentire being, I called upon the power that was responsible forall that was happening to me: "Whoever you may be, if you exist, and if anything morerational that what is happening here is possible, suffer it to behere now. But if you are revenging yourself upon me for mysenseless suicide by the hideousness and absurdity of thissubsequent existence, then let me tell you that no torturecould ever equal the contempt which I shall go on dumblyfeeling, though my martyrdom may last a million years!" I made this appeal and held my peace. There was a fullminute of unbroken silence and again another drop fell, butI knew with infinite unshakable certainty that everythingwould change immediately. And behold my grave suddenlywas rent asunder, that is, I don't know whether it was openedor dug up, but I was caught up by some dark and unknownbeing and we found ourselves in space. I suddenly regainedmy sight. It was the dead of night, and never, never hadthere been such darkness. We were flying through space faraway from the earth. I did not question the being who wastaking me; I was proud and waited. I assured myself that Iwas not afraid, and was thrilled with ecstasy at the thoughtthat I was not afraid. I do not know how long we wereflying, I cannot imagine; it happened as it always does indreams when you skip over space and time, and the laws ofthought and existence, and only pause upon the points forwhich the heart yearns. I remember that I suddenly saw inthe darkness a star. "Is that Sirius?" I asked impulsively,though I had not meant to ask questions. "No, that is the star you saw between the clouds when youwere coming home," the being who was carrying me replied. I knew that it had something like a human face. Strangeto say, I did not like that being, in fact I felt an intenseaversion for it. I had expected complete non-existence, andthat was why I had put a bullet through my heart. And hereI was in the hands of a creature not human, of course, but yetliving, existing. "And so there is life beyond the grave," Ithought with the strange frivolity one has in dreams. But inits inmost depth my heart remained unchanged. "And if Ihave got to exist again," I thought, "and live once more underthe control of some irresistible power, I won't be vanquishedand humiliated." "You know that I am afraid of you and despise me forthat," I said suddenly to my companion, unable to refrain from the humiliating question which implied a confession,and feeling my humiliation stab my heart as with a pin. Hedid not answer my question, but all at once I felt that he wasnot even despising me, but was laughing at me and had nocompassion for me, and that our journey had an unknownand mysterious object that concerned me only. Fear wasgrowing in my heart. Something was mutely and painfullycommunicated to me from my silent companion, andpermeated my whole being. We were flying through dark,unknown space. I had for some time lost sight of theconstellations familiar to my eyes. I knew that there werestars in the heavenly spaces the light of which took thousandsor millions of years to reach the earth. Perhaps we werealready flying through those spaces. I expected somethingwith a terrible anguish that tortured my heart. And suddenlyI was thrilled by a familiar feeling that stirred me to thedepths: I suddenly caught sight of our sun! I knew that itcould not be our sun, that gave life to our earth, and that wewere an infinite distance from our sun, but for some reasonI knew in my whole being that it was a sun exactly like ours,a duplicate of it. A sweet, thrilling feeling resounded withecstasy in my heart: the kindred power of the same lightwhich had given me light stirred an echo in my heart andawakened it, and I had a sensation of life, the old life of thepast for the first time since I had been in the grave. "But if that is the sun, if that is exactly the same as oursun," I cried, "where is the earth?" And my companion pointed to a star twinkling in thedistance with an emerald light. We were flying straighttowards it. "And are such repetitions possible in the universe? Canthat be the law of Nature? . . . And if that is an earth there,can it be just the same earth as ours . . . just the same, aspoor, as unhappy, but precious and beloved for ever,arousing in the most ungrateful of her children the samepoignant love for her that we feel for our earth?" I cried out,shaken by irresistible, ecstatic love for the old familiar earthwhich I had left. The image of the poor child whom I hadrepulsed flashed through my mind. "You shall see it all," answered my companion, and therewas a note of sorrow in his voice. But we were rapidly approaching the planet. It wasgrowing before my eyes; I could already distinguish theocean, the outline of Europe; and suddenly a feeling of agreat and holy jealousy glowed in my heart. "How can it be repeated and what for? I love and can loveonly that earth which I have left, stained with my blood,when, in my ingratitude, I quenched my life with a bullet inmy heart. But I have never, never ceased to love that earth,and perhaps on the very night I parted from it I loved it morethan ever. Is there suffering upon this new earth? On ourearth we can only love with suffering and through suffering. We cannot love otherwise, and we know of no other sort oflove. I want suffering in order to love. I long, I thirst, thisvery instant, to kiss with tears the earth that I have left, andI don't want, I won't accept life on any other!" But my companion had already left me. I suddenly, quitewithout noticing how, found myself on this other earth, in thebright light of a sunny day, fair as paradise. I believe I wasstanding on one of the islands that make up on our globe the Greek archipelago, or on the coast of the mainland facing that archipelago. Oh, everything was exactly as it is with us,only everything seemed to have a festive radiance, thesplendour of some great, holy triumph attained at last. Thecaressing sea, green as emerald, splashed softly upon theshore and kissed it with manifest, almost conscious love. The tall, lovely trees stood in all the glory of their blossom,and their innumerable leaves greeted me, I am certain, withtheir soft, caressing rustle and seemed to articulate words oflove. The grass glowed with bright and fragrant flowers. Birds were flying in flocks in the air, and perched fearlesslyon my shoulders and arms and joyfully struck me with theirdarling, fluttering wings. And at last I saw and knew thepeople of this happy land. That came to me of themselves,they surrounded me, kissed me. The children of the sun, thechildren of their sun - oh, how beautiful they were! Neverhad I seen on our own earth such beauty in mankind. Onlyperhaps in our children, in their earliest years, one mightfind, some remote faint reflection of this beauty. The eyes ofthese happy people shone with a clear brightness. Theirfaces were radiant with the light of reason and fullness of aserenity that comes of perfect understanding, but those faces were gay; in their words and voices there was a note of childlike joy. Oh, from the first moment, from the firstglance at them, I understood it all! It was the earthuntarnished by the Fall; on it lived people who had notsinned. They lived just in such a paradise as that in which,according to all the legends of mankind, our first parentslived before they sinned; the only difference was that all thisearth was the same paradise. These people, laughingjoyfully, thronged round me and caressed me; they took mehome with them, and each of them tried to reassure me. Oh,they asked me no questions, but they seemed, I fancied, toknow everything without asking, and they wanted to makehaste to smoothe away the signs of suffering from my face.

And do you know what? Well, granted that it was only adream, yet the sensation of the love of those innocent andbeautiful people has remained with me for ever, and I feel asthough their love is still flowing out to me from over there. I have seen them myself, have known them and beenconvinced; I loved them, I suffered for them afterwards. Oh,I understood at once even at the time that in many things Icould not understand them at all; as an up-to-date Russianprogressive and contemptible Petersburger, it struck me asinexplicable that, knowing so much, they had, for instance,no science like our. But I soon realised that their knowledgewas gained and fostered by intuitions different from those ofus on earth, and that their aspirations, too, were quitedifferent. They desired nothing and were at peace; they didnot aspire to knowledge of life as we aspire to understand it,because their lives were full. But their knowledge washigher and deeper than ours; for our science seeks to explainwhat life is, aspires to understand it in order to teach othershow to love, while they without science knew how to live;and that I understood, but I could not understand theirknowledge. They showed me their trees, and I could notunderstand the intense love with which they looked at them;it was as though they were talking with creatures likethemselves. And perhaps I shall not be mistaken if I say thatthey conversed with them. Yes, they had found theirlanguage, and I am convinced that the trees understood them. They looked at all Nature like that - at the animals who livedin peace with them and did not attack them, but loved them,conquered by their love. They pointed to the stars and toldme something about them which I could not understand, butI am convinced that they were somehow in touch with thestars, not only in thought, but by some living channel. Oh,these people did not persist in trying to make me understandthem, they loved me without that, but I knew that they wouldnever understand me, and so I hardly spoke to them aboutour earth. I only kissed in their presence the earth on whichthey lived and mutely worshipped them themselves. Andthey saw that and let me worship them without being abashedat my adoration, for they themselves loved much. They werenot unhappy on my account when at times I kissed their feetwith tears, joyfully conscious of the love with which theywould respond to mine. At times I asked myself withwonder how it was they were able never to offend a creaturelike me, and never once to arouse a feeling of jealousy orenvy in me? Often I wondered how it could be that, boastfuland untruthful as I was, I never talked to them of what Iknew - of which, of course, they had no notion - that I wasnever tempted to do so by a desire to astonish or even tobenefit them. They were as gay and sportive as children. Theywandered about their lovely woods and copses, they sangtheir lovely songs; their fair was light - the fruits of theirtrees, the honey from their woods, and the milk of theanimals who loved them. The work they did for food andraiment was brief and not labourious. They loved and begotchildren, but I never noticed in them the impulse of that cruelsensuality which overcomes almost every man on this earth,all and each, and is the source of almost every sin of mankindon earth. They rejoiced at the arrival of children as newbeings to share their happiness. There was no quarrelling, nojealousy among them, and they did not even know what thewords meant. Their children were the children of all, forthey all made up one family. There was scarcely any illnessamong them, though there was death; but their old peopledied peacefully, as though falling asleep, giving blessingsand smiles to those who surrounded them to take their lastfarewell with bright and lovely smiles. I never saw grief ortears on those occasions, but only love, which reached thepoint of ecstasy, but a calm ecstasy, made perfect andcontemplative. One might think that they were still incontact with the departed after death, and that their earthlyunion was not cut short by death. They scarcely understoodme when I questioned them about immortality, but evidentlythey were so convinced of it without reasoning that it was notfor them a question at all. They had no temples, but they hada real living and uninterrupted sense of oneness with thewhole of the universe; they had no creed, but they had acertain knowledge that when their earthly joy had reached thelimits of earthly nature, then there would come for them, forthe living and for the dead, a still greater fullness of contactwith the whole of the universe. They looked forward to thatmoment with joy, but without haste, not pining for it, butseeming to have a foretaste of it in their hearts, of which theytalked to one another. In the evening before going to sleep they liked singing inmusical and harmonious chorus. In those songs theyexpressed all the sensations that the parting day had giventhem, sang its glories and took leave of it. They sang thepraises of nature, of the sea, of the woods. They likedmaking songs about one another, and praised each other likechildren; they were the simplest songs, but they sprang fromtheir hearts and went to one's heart. And not only in theirsongs but in all their lives they seemed to do nothing butadmire one another. It was like being in love with eachother, but an all-embracing, universal feeling. Some of their songs, solemn and rapturous, I scarcelyunderstood at all. Though I understood the words I couldnever fathom their full significance. It remained, as it were,beyond the grasp of my mind, yet my heart unconsciouslyabsorbed it more and more. I often told them that I had hada presentiment of it long before, that this joy and glory hadcome to me on our earth in the form of a yearningmelancholy that at times approached insufferable sorrow;that I had had a foreknowledge of them all and of their gloryin the dreams of my heart and the visions of my mind; thatoften on our earth I could not look at the setting sun withouttears. . . that in my hatred for the men of our earth there wasalways a yearning anguish: why could I not hate themwithout loving them? why could I not help forgiving them?and in my love for them there was a yearning grief: whycould I not love them without hating them? They listened tome, and I saw they could not conceive what I was saying, butI did not regret that I had spoken to them of it: I knew thatthey understood the intensity of my yearning anguish overthose whom I had left. But when they looked at me withtheir sweet eyes full of love, when I felt that in their presencemy heart, too, became as innocent and just as theirs, thefeeling of the fullness of life took my breath away, and Iworshipped them in silence. Oh, everyone laughs in my face now, and assures me thatone cannot dream of such details as I am telling now, that Ionly dreamed or felt one sensation that arose in my heart indelirium and made up the details myself when I woke up. And when I told them that perhaps it really was so, my God,how they shouted with laughter in my face, and what mirthI caused! Oh, yes, of course I was overcome by the meresensation of my dream, and that was all that was preserved inmy cruelly wounded heart; but the actual forms and imagesof my dream, that is, the very ones I really saw at the verytime of my dream, were filled with such harmony, were solovely and enchanting and were so actual, that on awakeningI was, of course, incapable of clothing them in our poorlanguage, so that they were bound to become blurred in mymind; and so perhaps I really was forced afterwards to makeup the details, and so of course to distort them in mypassionate desire to convey some at least of them as quicklyas I could. But on the other hand, how can I help believingthat it was all true? It was perhaps a thousand times brighter,happier and more joyful than I describe it. Granted that Idreamed it, yet it must have been real. You know, I will tellyou a secret: perhaps it was not a dream at all! For thensomething happened so awful, something so horribly true,that it could not have been imagined in a dream. My heartmay have originated the dream, but would my heart alonehave been capable of originating the awful event whichhappened to me afterwards? How could I alone haveinvented it or imagined it in my dream? Could my pettyheart and fickle, trivial mind have risen to such a revelationof truth? Oh, judge for yourselves: hitherto I have concealedit, but now I will tell the truth. The fact is that I . . .corrupted them all! VYes, yes, it ended in my corrupting them all! How it couldcome to pass I do not know, but I remember it clearly. Thedream embraced thousands of years and left in me only asense of the whole. I only know that I was the cause of theirsin and downfall. Like a vile trichina, like a germ of theplague infecting whole kingdoms, so I contaminated all thisbearth, so happy and sinless before my coming. They learntto lie, grew fond of lying, and discovered the charm offalsehood. Oh, at first perhaps it began innocently, with ajest, coquetry, with amorous play, perhaps indeed with agerm, but that germ of falsity made its way into their heartsand pleased them. Then sensuality was soon begotten,sensuality begot jealousy, jealousy - cruelty . . . Oh, I don'tknow, I don't remember; but soon, very soon the first bloodwas shed. They marvelled and were horrified, and began tobe split up and divided. They formed into unions, but it wasagainst one another. Reproaches, upbraidings followed. They came to know shame, and shame brought them tovirtue. The conception of honour sprang up, and every unionbegan waving its flags. They began torturing animals, andthe animals withdrew from them into the forests and becamehostile to them. They began to struggle for separation, forisolation, for individuality, for mine and thine. They beganto talk in different languages. They became acquainted withsorrow and loved sorrow; they thirsted for suffering, and saidthat truth could only be attained through suffering. Thenscience appeared. As they became wicked they began talkingof brotherhood and humanitarianism, and understood thoseideas. As they became criminal, they invented justice anddrew up whole legal codes in order to observe it, and toensure their being kept, set up a guillotine. They hardlyremembered what they had lost, in fact refused to believe thatthey had ever been happy and innocent. They even laughedat the possibility o this happiness in the past, and called it adream. They could not even imagine it in definite form andshape, but, strange and wonderful to relate, though they lostall faith in their past happiness and called it a legend, they solonged to be happy and innocent once more that theysuccumbed to this desire like children, made an idol of it, setup temples and worshipped their own idea, their own desire;though at the same time they fully believed that it wasunattainable and could not be realised, yet they bowed downto it and adored it with tears! Nevertheless, if it could have happened that they had returned to the innocent and happycondition which they had lost, and if someone had shown itto them again and had asked them whether they wanted to goback to it, they would certainly have refused. They answered me: "We may be deceitful, wicked and unjust, we know it andweep over it, we grieve over it; we torment and punishourselves more perhaps than that merciful Judge Who willjudge us and whose Name we know not. But we have science, and by the means of it we shall find the truth and weshall arrive at it consciously. Knowledge is higher thanfeeling, the consciousness of life is higher than life. Sciencewill give us wisdom, wisdom will reveal the laws, and theknowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness." That is what they said, and after saying such thingseveryone began to love himself better than anyone else, andindeed they could not do otherwise. All became so jealousof the rights of their own personality that they did their veryutmost to curtail and destroy them in others, and made thatthe chief thing in their lives. Slavery followed, evenvoluntary slavery; the weak eagerly submitted to the strong,on condition that the latter aided them to subdue the stillweaker. Then there were saints who came to these people,weeping, and talked to them of their pride, of their loss ofharmony and due proportion, of their loss of shame. Theywere laughed at or pelted with stones. Holy blood was shed on the threshold of the temples. Then there arose men whobegan to think how to bring all people together again, so thateverybody, while still loving himself best of all, might notinterfere with others, and all might live together in somethinglike a harmonious society. Regular wars sprang up over thisidea. All the combatants at the same time firmly believedthat science, wisdom and the instinct of self-preservationwould force men at last to unite into a harmonious andrational society; and so, meanwhile, to hasten matters, 'the wise' endeavoured to exterminate as rapidly as possible allwho were 'not wise' and did not understand their idea, that the latter might not hinder its triumph. But the instinct ofself-preservation grew rapidly weaker; there arose men,haughty and sensual, who demanded all or nothing. In orderto obtain everything they resorted to crime, and if they did not succeed - to suicide. There arose religions with a cult of non-existence and self-destruction for the sake of theeverlasting peace of annihilation. At last these people grewweary of their meaningless toil, and signs of suffering cameinto their faces, and then they proclaimed that suffering wasa beauty, for in suffering alone was there meaning. Theyglorified suffering in their songs. I moved about amongthem, wringing my hands and weeping over them, but I lovedthem perhaps more than in old days when there was nosuffering in their faces and when they were innocent and solovely. I loved the earth they had polluted even more thanwhen it had been a paradise, if only because sorrow hadcome to it. Alas! I always loved sorrow and tribulation, butonly for myself, for myself; but I wept over them, pityingthem. I stretched out my hands to them in despair, blaming,cursing and despising myself. I told them that all this wasmy doing, mine alone; that it was I had brought themcorruption, contamination and falsity. I besought them tocrucify me, I taught them how to make a cross. I could notkill myself, I had not the strength, but I wanted to suffer attheir hands. I yearned for suffering, I longed that my bloodshould be drained to the last drop in these agonies. But theyonly laughed at me, and began at last to look upon me ascrazy. They justified me, they declared that they had onlygot what they wanted themselves, and that all that now wascould not have been otherwise. At last they declared to methat I was becoming dangerous and that they should lock meup in a madhouse if I did not hold my tongue. Then suchgrief took possession of my soul that my heart was wrung,and I felt as though I were dying; and then . . . then I awoke. It was morning, that is, it was not yet daylight, but about six o'clock. I woke up in the same arm-chair; my candle hadburnt out; everyone was asleep in the captain's room, andthere was a stillness all round, rare in our flat. First of all I leapt up in great amazement: nothing like this had everhappened to me before, not even in the most trivial detail; Ihad never, for instance, fallen asleep like this in myarm-chair. While I was standing and coming to myself Isuddenly caught sight of my revolver lying loaded, ready -but instantly I thrust it away! Oh, now, life, life! I lifted upmy hands and called upon eternal truth, not with words, butwith tears; ecstasy, immeasurable ecstasy flooded my soul. Yes, life and spreading the good tidings! Oh, I at thatmoment resolved to spread the tidings, and resolved it, ofcourse, for my whole life. I go to spread the tidings, I wantto spread the tidings - of what? Of the truth, for I have seenit, have seen it with my own eyes, have seen it in all its glory. And since then I have been preaching! Moreover I love allthose who laugh at me more than any of the rest. Why thatis so I do not know and cannot explain, but so be it. I am told that I am vague and confused, and if I am vague andconfused now, what shall I be later on? It is true indeed: Iam vague and confused, and perhaps as time goes on I shallbe more so. And of course I shall make many blundersbefore I find out how to preach, that is, find out what wordsto say, what things to do, for it is a very difficult task. I seeall that as clear as daylight, but, listen, who does not makemistakes? An yet, you know, all are making for the samegoal, all are striving in the same direction anyway, from thesage to the lowest robber, only by different roads. It is an oldtruth, but this is what is new: I cannot go far wrong. For I have seen the truth; I have seen and I know that people can be beautiful and happy without losing the power of living onearth. I will not and cannot believe that evil is the normalcondition of mankind. And it is just this faith of mine thatthey laugh at. But how can I help believing it? I have seenthe truth - it is not as though I had invented it with my mind,I have seen it, seen it, and the living image of it has filled mysoul for ever. I have seen it in such full perfection that Icannot believe that it is impossible for people to have it. Andso how can I go wrong? I shall make some slips no doubt,and shall perhaps talk in second-hand language, but not forlong: the living image of what I saw will always be with meand will always correct and guide me. Oh, I am full ofcourage and freshness, and I will go on and on if it were fora thousand years! Do you know, at first I meant to concealthe fact that I corrupted them, but that was a mistake - thatwas my first mistake! But truth whispered to me that I waslying, and preserved me and corrected me. But how establishparadise - I don't know, because I do not know how to put itinto words. After my dream I lost command of words. Allthe chief words, anyway, the most necessary ones. But nevermind, I shall go and I shall keep talking, I won't leave off, foranyway I have seen it with my own eyes, though I cannotdescribe what I saw. But the scoffers do not understand that. It was a dream, they say, delirium, hallucination. Oh! Asthough that meant so much! And they are so proud! Adream! What is a dream? And is not our life a dream? I willsay more. Suppose that this paradise will never come to pass(that I understand), yet I shall go on preaching it. And yethow simple it is: in one day, in one hour everything could bearranged at once! The chief thing is to love others likeyourself, that's the chief thing, and that's everything; nothingelse is wanted - you will find out at once how to arrange itall. And yet it's an old truth which has been told and retolda billion times - but it has not formed part of our lives! Theconsciousness of life is higher than life, the knowledge of thelaws of happiness is higher than happiness - that is what onemust contend against. And I shall. If only everyone wantsit, it can be arranged at once. And I tracked down that little girl . . . and I shall go on and on!

Source: Fyodor Dostoevsky

Bio: Wikipedia

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