Monday, August 09, 2010

Returning my Ticket

We are in the final yards of the hero parade, and I am glad I "saved" some of my best ones for the last, since today is hero less as well. I have been pondering what I am going to do at the conclusion of this project, and I have not yet come up with an answer. There has been the idea of a villain of the day mooted, but I am not sure that I am up to another year of daily posting. It is a bit like work, and I am not getting paid for it nor am I usually happy with the results. However, I am also pretty sure that I will "miss" the daily blogging, and will now have a lot of "extra" time to fill (which in my case means that I will waste it). I may take a breather between hero and villain (if I do it) just to get some of the "research" done on the front end, instead of the seat of my pants shit I have been doing for the heroes. But, enough of this rank speculation, on to the hero of the day.

Our hero for this day is another fictional character. His name is Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov, and if he had to be "born" I guess it would be sometime in 1880 when "The Brothers Karamazov" was first published. Our boy Ivan is a 24 year old brilliant student and a fervent rationalist, and it both of those qualities that led to his "downfall." He is the brother that I feel the most connection with. His views on God and evil are, to me, the most moving passages in the book, therefore, he must be quoted at length.

"Can you understand why a little creature, who can't even understand what's done to her, should beat her little aching heart with her tiny fist in the dark and the cold, and weep her meek unresentful tears to dear, kind God to protect her? Do you understand that, friend and brother, you pious and humble novice? Do you understand why this infamy must be and is permitted? Without it, I am told, man could not have existed on earth, for he could not have known good and evil. Why should he know that diabolical good and evil when it costs so much? "

That is just a part of his justification for his "rebellion" against god. It is his concern for human suffering that leads him to reject god. There is no good argument that explains why an all-knowing, all-just, all-good, god would allow the horrible suffering that Ivan sees in the world. Ivan is not a happy character, trapped by his logic, he keeps the rest of humanity at a distance, and realizes that he will never be able to pursue happiness for himself.

He further states:

"I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket."

The "return my ticket" line is one of the most powerful images that I have ever came across in literature, it has been about 20 years since I read "The Brothers Karamazov" , but I still remember Ivan's "ticket" speech quite well. It had quite an effect on me, and my way of thinking, and the chapter following this speech in which Ivan's poem "The Grand Inquisitor" might look familiar to readers of this blog. It is where I shamelessly stole my nom de plume from, and is, in many ways, the starting point for this blog. I owe a lot to Ivan Karamazov, even if he is a bit of a cold bastard. He goes off the rails a bit near the end of the novel, and is facing an uncertain future, there are a few passages in the book that hint that he might recover, and live happily ever after, but it is unclear.

And that is what life is, unclear, happily ever after generally is a lot more difficult to obtain than one would think, and Ivan is clearly in the "doubter" camp, and so am I. But, for being one of the fictional character that I owe a great intellectual debt to, and for having such a profound insight into a lot of really important ideas, Ivan Karamazov, (1880-present), you are my (364th) hero of the day.

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