Some Dostoevsky & Bonhoeffer

The following quote is from Dostoevsky’s The Brother’s Karamzov. The speaker is Elder Zosima (a monk). The quote is long, but well worth reading through.

“Work tirelessly. If, as you are going to sleep at night, you remember: “I did not do what I ought to have done,” arise at once and do it. If you are surrounded by spiteful and callous people who do not want to listen to you, fall down before them and ask their forgiveness, for the guilt is yours, too, that they do not want to listen to you. And if you cannot speak with the embittered, serve them silently and in humility, never losing hope. And if everyone abandons you and drives you out by force, then, when you are left alone, fall down on the earth and kiss it and water it with your tears, and the earth will bring forth fruit from your tears, even though no one has seen or heard you in your solitude. […] If the wickedness of people arouses indignation and insurmountable grief in you, to the point that you desire to revenge yourself upon the wicked, fear that feeling most of all; go at once and seek torments for yourself, as if you yourself were guilty of their wickedness. Take these torments upon yourself and suffer them, and your heart will be eased, and you will understand that you, too, are guilty, for you might have shone to the wicked, even like the only sinless One, but you did not. If you had shone, your light would have lighted the way for others, and the one who did wickedness would perhaps not have done so in your light. And even if you do shine, but see that people are not saved even with your light, remain steadfast, and do not doubt the power of the heavenly light; believe that if they are not saved now, they will be saved later. And if they are not saved, their sons will be saved, for your light will not die, even when you are dead. The righteous man departs, but his light remains. […] Never seek a reward, for great is your reward on earth without that: your spiritual joy, which only the righteous obtain. Nor should you fear the noble and powerful, but be wise and ever gracious. Know measure, know the time, learn these things. When you are alone, pray. Love to throw yourself down on the earth and kiss it. Kiss the earth and love it, tirelessly, insatiably, love all men, love all things, seek this rapture and ecstasy. Water the earth with the tears of your joy, and love those tears. Do not be ashamed of this ecstasy, treasure it, for it is a gift from God, a great gift, and it is not given to many, but to those who are chosen.”

I was also reminded of  a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Dein Reich komme (Thy Kingdom Come) which I think could be brought into dialogue with The Brothers Karamzov in a number of ways (but which I wont do here).
The translation is my own (so bear with me).

“We are Hinterweltler* or we are Secularists; that is to say, we no longer believe in the Kingdom of God.  We are hostile towards the earth, because we want to be better than she, or we are hostile toward God, because he steals the earth, our Mother, from us.  We flee the violence of the earth, or we brace ourselves rigidly and immovably to her.  But we are not the wanderers, who love the earth, which carries them, which they actually only love, because they encounter strange lands on her, this they love above all else—otherwise they would not wander.  Only those who wander, like these, can believe in the Kingdom of God, those who love the earth and God inseparably. We are Hinterweltlerish, since we came up with the heinously clever idea to be religious, yes even to be “Christian” at the expense of the earth.  This flourishes in the Hinterweltlertum.  Where life begins to become embarrassing and intruding, one always jumps boldly and swings oneself effortlessly and carelessly into the so-called realm of the eternal.”

* literally ‘behind the world’, but rendered as separate from or independent of the world/earth in the context of the quote. Unfortunately I have no idea what English translations use and I only have the German in my possession.


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