reflections on tolstoy

the gist
in philosophy we are reading parts of tolstoy's confession. if you haven't read it, the gist is that this famous author named leo tolstoy is describing how he came to success in every way, and then realized how life is meaningless (listen leo, i could told ya that years ago).

he wants to take comfort in his family, but he realizes that because his family are all human beings, they are caught in the same meaningless scenario called life. he wonders if he should continue to nurture them and act as if life is meaningful in and of itself, or if he should expose them to his realization of emptiness.

of his family, tolstoy says "every step in cognition leads them up to this truth. and the truth is death."

he also tries to take shelter in his accomplishment as a writer (artist), but he realizes its emptiness as well. tolstoy sees art as a mirror of life, and life as an empty venture. "it was clear to me that art was an adornment of life, a decoy of life... how, then could i entrap others?" he laments.

"i could no longer console myself with what is saw in the mirror, namely, that my situation was stupid and desperate." sounding pretty human there, amigo.

tolstoy's dilemna
so he starts asking questions:
"'what is the meaning of life?'"
"'what will come of my life?'"
"'why does everything which exists exist, and why do i exist?'"

tolstoy then concludes that the science he studies will not answer these questions in a satisfactory manner. "... i understood that it was not right for me to look for an answer to my question in rational knowledge, and that the answer given by rational knowledge was only an indication that the answer might be got if the question were differently put..."

so he puts his questions differently and examines them in the light of the infinite, ignoring for those purposes the things he had come to know about science. "thus, outside the rational knowledge... i was inevitably led to recognize that all living humanity had a certain other rational knowledge, faith, which made it possible to live."

in essence, this philosopher settles on blind faith coupled with the ignorance of reality. he throws himself at the the closest religion at hand and becomes a more or less devout christian. his idea of science doesn't support his belief, but then again science had already made the world a meaningless location and vocation for tolstoy. he wanted to again believe something so that his life would no longer be meaningless.

tolstoy essentially concludes that he would rather be ignorant about reality than have to face its potential meaninglessness. our friend cypher from the matrix is having a similar dilemna in the video below.

my conclusions?
i would go back to science. don't close the door on observation so quickly as to conclude that everything is meaningless. science and art in themselves just reflect the finite world, which many of us have already "discovered" doesn't hold any answers directly.

however, the finite world also systematically and beautifully speaks something more than just the futility and hopelessness that tolstoy discovered. the world, as expressed by science and art seems to be alluding to both a creation and a creator. as an ancient hebrew poet once said, "the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands."

i would challenge anyone who disagrees to look and listen with an open mind. these findings are not only mine, and they are not only the mob(err, church)'s. i think you'll find that there's really something to them.

good questions, bad solutions. why is it there? why am i here? what does it all mean? tolstoy has some qood questions, but he is trapped by his previous assumptions that the world is only the world, and is thus not open to the possibility that it might mean something after all.

we can start to discover purpose in art, in science, and in the people around us because nature, human and otherwise, is the paramount witness to the existence of a living God.

as ever,

picture by andrew

1 comment:

  1. Those darn embedding-disablers!

    Anyways, I don't think God wants us to turn off our minds, relax, and float downstream. He just wants us to relax and float downstream, but with our minds engaged in the usefulness for which they were created. Reverting to a false ignorance is just dishonest.

    Now I want to read Tolstoy so I can criticiz--I mean so I can learn stuff by engaging with his thoughts (not from passively sucking them up like a sponge, of course)