I’ve been reading a lot lately and I’ve noticed a part of myself in almost each writer.
I read Dostoyevsky and the one theme I get from all his books, especially Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov is that painful level of self-awareness. This and the irritation I (or the main character in these books) sometimes get. The irritation which paralyses you. The kind that says: “If I endure another 5 minutes of this, all my problems will be solved. But I do not want to endure another second.” The instances of self-awareness is implicit in all the books I’ve read by him, though in Notes from Underground he makes it explicit:
“I swear to you gentlemen, that to be overly conscious is a sickness, a real, thorough sickness.”
The irritation is very aptly described particularly in The Brothers Karamazov and, again, Notes from Underground. In the former you see it in the character of Dmitry, passionate, noble yet short-tempered Dmitry: Very amiable but very specific things, especially pedantic ones, are able to send his fury through the roof. In Notes you find in the “hero” of the tail constantly changing between loving and hating people, notably that whore whom he abused, then inspired, just to bring her down again. Not out of spite. He truly hated her at first, loved her at second, and despised her at last.
Obviously there are other aspects such as the passion and deep aspects I like of Dostoyevsky, yet being irritated as I’m writing led to me focus on the above two aspects.
For the more amicable writers…
I read G. K. Chesterton and the one thing I have in communion with him (which he perhaps imparted onto me) is that childish sense of wonder. Consider the following from his book, Orthodoxy:
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
Chesterton has always been my favourite author. In his detective novels – and his philosophical books – he always has a way to see the humorous and yet more true part of a story. I wish I had that ability.
Following on Chesterton is C. S. Lewis. No writer has impacted my soul and mind as much as him. In each of his books one can see the utter peace in which he wrote. His style is so logical, yet so profound. Like the wise friend who – if only you bothered to listen to him – will expound everything to you in the most clear and most loving manner, leaving you with no doubts.
Last year I gained an interest in apologetics, which led to me partucularly focusing on the historical facts for Jesus’ resurrection. A few weeks ago I started reading Lewis’s Miracles. Boy is that a good book. I wish I read it at the start of my research. Do yourself a favour and read it. Anyway, what I have in common with him is his interests. Here I am doing research on Christ’s resurrection, only to find that Lewis already wrote a book on it. Here I am liking G. K. Chesterton, discovering that it was Chesterton which “baptised” Lewis’s mind. I’m watching debates on God’s existence, and here I am reading a book by Lewis on the topic which, if I did not know him, I would have thought was written only last year. Before I started reading his work I enrolled for a mythology class, only to find mythology to have been Lewis’s main interest in life. In his whole autobiography I see glimpses of my life in his. I just wish I can have a tenth of the intellect and knowledge that Lewis had.
This month I picked up Ravi Zacharias’s autobiography, From East to West. And also William Lane Craig in On Guard. In them I share the longing for purpose in my life. The longing to reach out to the sceptic not just with facts, but (and I’m still learning how:) with love.
I guess we all have some common traits. Yet seeing these people with whom I share a part of my soul, seeing what they achieved in their lives (or in the case of Dostoyevsky, what he felt) inspires me more than anything else in this life other than God himself.