Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Anna Karenina: Not A Worthless Thing

Soft morning light spreads across the lawn.
Turkeys mosey by, poking around for their morning meal.

I'm up early to put peach pecan french toast in the oven. 
It's a breathtakingly glorious morning!
After finishing Anna Karenina last night, I find myself in focused contemplation.
I read about Tolstoy after I check email, and I wait for breakfast to bake and the rest of the family to awaken. 
I ponder.
I think I understand why Tolstoy is considered (by many) to be the greatest novelist ever. But I find myself saddened by (what seems to me) his mis-directed views of Christianity. I, of course, don't know if I even have a fair representation of what the man truly believed and how he lived. God only fully knows such things, but I realize it is crucial to at least try to understand where an author is coming from in order to more fully grasp the meaning behind his works.
From what I do understand, Tolstoy--like most people I know--was a work in progress. His points of view evolved over his lifetime. He was a product of various influences, including the unique and specific society in which he lived. Apparently, much of his early life was wasted in self-consumed debauchery--what I believe the Apostle Paul would label being enslaved to the flesh, or walking after the flesh. I cannot help but wonder if much of Tolstoy's later years were spent trying to compensate for the guilt he felt. I want to study more about his life and beliefs. We have a copy of his wife's diary and plan to read his as well.
I want to reread this lengthy book (Anna K.) at some point to gather more insight into his writing techniques, how he uses dialogue to tell the story, how he develops the inner life of his characters, and so smoothly transitions between those writing mechanisms. It amazes me how many layers of meaning are held within the pages of this book... layers of human psyche, spiritual realities, human interactions, and common human tendencies.
Demonstrating the reality of how misguided human choices can bring destruction is brought vividly to life, and though sad--actually heart-breakingly so--it refreshes me to see this truth stated and masterfully reinforced. This book is a perfect example of a classic that every mature person should read and ponder in the light of the message of Christianity--not organized denominational Christianity, but raw New Testament Bible as a whole without doctrinal bias and preconceived notions.
I think what one most gains from reading Anna Karenina--if one is looking--is a pattern to avoid. Anna's destruction comes from mindlessly following her passions, her feelings, without regard for truth, for others, or for her own true long-term good. She does not have a solid reasoned basis for living. An example of thinking from a careful spiritually infused mindset is not to be found in Anna.
Is this not what we see all around us in our society? In the "church" and out. We live, we breath, we think with our emotions, our feelings, our whimsical desires, and our destruction is ever looming if not already arrived.
There are those who take the simplistic and uninformed view that "I will set no evil thing before mine eyes"1. means I will read nothing that depicts the waywardness of mankind--such as is depicted in Anna Karenina. They do not understand the verse and must ignore the fact that the Bible itself teaches us lessons about lives and consequences of evil men. The definition for the word translated in the English as "evil" is "worthless." Anna Karenina is certainly not a "worthless thing."
1. Psalm 101:3