The morning I wrote this blog entry down, I woke up with a thought about myself, the exact words of which I cannot remember now.
The thought was something like this:
I have the soul of a heroine in a Russian novel.
That must mean I have a Russian soul.
"The most basic, most rudimentary spiritual need of the Russian people is the need for suffering, ever-present and unquenchable, everywhere and in everything."
From the thought I awakened with, I realized that I had practically lived my youth in novels, and Russian novels, by and large, were my favorites. I lived in the agony. I identified with the tragic heroines.
Perhaps the lives of heroines in French novels were no less tragic, but I clung to Russian novels. Of course, my parents came from Russia.
Of course, I didn't actually lead the lives of these heroines. I never went through the extremely hard survival times these novels were full of. I never jumped off a bridge, took to the streets in order to feed my family, etc., yet I lived in the air of the novels I devoured. My whole psyche was into drama. Romances were supposed to end in tragic separation, weren't they? For a romance to be a romance, it had to be undone. Certainly, the few romances in my life were big and overwhelming -- and misbegotten and never worked out.
It was even a simpler sentence the initial thought I had upon waking whose simplicity I cannot call to mind. (Good grief, I've started writing in the language structure of a Russian novel!)
Later in the day I awoke with that Russian soul thought, I remembered a high point in my life, the time I got an A+++ as a senior in high school on a book report of The Brothers Karamazov by Feodor Dostoivsky. How I love those Russian names, how they slip off the tongue.
I know I've told of this before, bragged even, how the teacher wrote on my book report:
"You have, despite your youth, a dawning sense of the tragic sentiments of life."
Mr. Smith, the English teacher, also taught Spanish, so he actually wrote the tragic sentiments of life in Spanish -- los sentimientos trágicos de la vida.
At the time, I thought it was wonderful to have that dawning sense. Now I don't think it's so wonderful.
What is a dramatic novel but the pulling of tension? And in the novels I'm speaking of, although they may have been filled with dinner parties, the tragedies were not concerned with the success or failure of a dinner party but rather were filled with the essential basic bare aspects of life. The titles even spoke the tragedies: War and Peace, The Possessed, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Notes from the Underground, Dead Souls, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Later, when I would read a Russian novel like Dr. Zhivago, tragic as it was, it didn't begin to hit the depths of the other Russian novels I had read in my youth.
I wonder how different my life might have been had I never read Russian novels -- or novels altogether.
But soon after I awakened with the awareness about the slant of life I had come from, in an instant, I had the further thought that all I had to do was to change the orientation of my thinking. This is not original, of course, for God in Heavenletters™ keeps saying that we have to change our thinking.
And, then, the miraculous thought dropped in that the backdrop of my thinking must already have changed!
How else then did such happiness from God come to me in Heavenletters™? How else then did I arrive in this paradise of South Africa with all the beautiful people here whose slant on life comes from joy?
The top two illustrations are from Saryan, Martiros) Drampian, Ruben
SARYAN. First Edition
Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1964