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On Orthodox Easter
Rather than trying to escape from suffering, read some Russians.
My calendar informs me this is Orthodox Easter, which intrigues me as I just finished watching a movie series version of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. I read the book about a million years ago. The film version also was excellent. And I have begun reading a collection of all or most of Feodor Dostoyevski's books. It's about 7000 pages. Though I have read lots of his work before, I hope to live long enough finish this collection. Apparently, I am something of a Russian in spirit.
Long ago, while I was sitting in on a sort of seance with an Edgar Cayce study group some friends held at the house where a bunch of us lived, the group leader singled me out (maybe in those days I looked a bit like Rasputin) and assured me that in a previous life I had been a General in the Tsarist military. One of these days I should visit an Orthodox Church.
I had planned to write today about why I consider myself an Evangelical although I certainly don't fit into the world's current definition of one. But I'm going to save that for a future message (next week unless I again get distracted). Today I will address a revelation I had about my belief in the spiritual vision of Dostoyevski.
The author of a preface to the collection stresses that in the work of both Tolstoy and Dostoyevski, salvation requires suffering. Which makes perfect sense to me. After all, our lord, savior, and model of what the best human life can be suffered plenty.
When I was sixteen, Eric Curtis was my dearest friend. He had moved in with me for several months when I was alone after the death of my dad and while my mom was confined to a hospital isolation ward with spinal meningitis.
As Christmas neared, Eric began singing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. He sang in my house and friends' homes. In the halls at school. In my car. "For the lord our God omnipotent reigneth." This even though he wasn't much of a Christian, at least not admittedly.
A couple months into the New Year, Eric, Billy Torrey, Kenny Niedermeyer, and I drank wine in a sort of mock celebration of Kenny's parent's divorce. Then we went to a school basketball game. At the door, when we weren't admitted because the game was sold out, Kenny socked and shattered a door window with his fist.
Naturally, we all took off running, Kenny in one direction, the rest of us in another. The authorities chased Kenny, who was a track star. We three others could have escaped, but we hadn't gone more than fifty yards when Eric stopped. Billy and I urged him to hurry. He told us that though we two had done no wrong, if they caught us, we would get expelled anyway for being on campus under the influence of liquor.
“So will you!” we reminded him.
We argued and pleaded, but he explained that he needed to stay and take his punishment.
"For what?" we demanded.
He only insisted that we run, and hurry.
If you care to know more of this story, it's in Reading Brother Lawrence. But for this message I'll cut it short.
Eric died that year on February 17, in a car crash on a trip that Billy and I were supposed to be on but something Eric did kept us at home.
Not long thereafter, I read Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov, a university drop-out, believes his intelligence and passion to help the poor should pardon him for murdering an evil person to finance his altruistic ambitions. Raskolnikov's suffering, both before and after the crime, allows us readers to feel what honest to God suffering is like. Anyone hoping to learn about why we are here on earth should, and probably must, read the book.
For years I carried in my wallet a note I had jotted. A quote: "Your sins which are many are forgiven because you have loved much." The line is spoken during a drunken rant to Raskolnikov by the father of the book's heroine. He is trying to explain why his daughter Sonia, a prostitute, will be forgiven and redeemed.
So it goes, I think.
By the way, I have begun offering additional content to paid subscribers. I suppose one motive for this is that Perelandra College could certainly use financial help; but the primary motive is that frequently I want to write about stuff I don't care to make available to anybody except readers I believe will try to understand rather than criticize, argue, or cancel; to those who sort of ask for it, and whom I consider special friends.
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