Glimpses of Beauty

First when we see them painted, things we have passed
Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see;
And so they are better, painted--better to us,
Which is the same thing. Art was given for that;
God uses us to help each other so,
Lending our minds out.

- Robert Browning, Fra Lippo Lippi -

One of the many reasons I love photography. A chance to see the world in an entirely different perspective, through the lens of a (hopeful) artist, a poet. Sometimes you forget yourself, many times you forget yourself, standing behind the camera. All you notice is the contrast of colors, the interplay of light and shadow, shining beauty poised from above.


Forgiving Alyosha

I will never forget my first reading of The Brothers Karamazof. Four days of rain, reading, and hospital visits – the last few days of my grandpa’s life. The thick, paperback volume followed as my constant companion during those days. I remember, almost too clearly, when I read “The Grand Inquisitor”. I forgot all about my surroundings, forgot about the mocking comfort of the hospital waiting room, Ivan had my whole attention. He finished talking, I turned to Alyosha, waiting. Waiting for his perfect solution. And Alyosha walked up to Ivan and kissed him. That was all. Just a kiss. I couldn’t believe it. He had no answer to the all-too-real problem of grief. It seemed like the most cowardly action. He just… gave up. I put the book down, confused, disappointed. I had hoped so much for some sort of comfort, anything. And all I found was this. Two hours later, my grandfather died.

Nothing else stands out from that first reading, I read in grief. I do remember loving the end, yet. Yet, I never could bring myself to forgive Alyosha (or Dostoevsky for that matter) for his response to Ivan. No matter how many times I reread the book, I could never enjoy that scene. Not until now, five years and at least five rereads later, now I can understand and fully see the meaning of that kiss.

The problem of pain, real pain, continually faces us. The pain of death, grief, loss, even haunts – or more accurately, especially haunts – us Christians. If there is truly a good God, how do we deal with the evil in the world? Our ready-made apologetics and answers fall flat when we speak to those in grief, to the mother who lost her youngest daughter. A quick glance at her tear-filled eyes, listening to her cries, and we have no words to answer her ever-repeated question, “Why?” This is the real world. This is the world of Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky does not sugarcoat the world in his novel, far from it, he lays before us the most perplexing issues of life: cruelty to the innocent, death, murder, unjust accusations. And along with these problems, he gives us an answer. An answer to the problem of pain – Alyosha’s kiss.

“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39), the second greatest commandment, Alyosha exemplifies this in his kiss. It is our answer to the problem of evil. Love, pure and true, love. We may recoil, saying, “No! That can’t be all! Just love?” Yet, that is the answer Dostoevsky gives. Love, an active and all encompassing love. Remember the Christian definition of love, perfectly set forth in our Lord Christ. Modernity has given a sentimental, almost ridiculous, warm and fuzzy definition to the concept of love. Forget that. Think of a love that perseveres in the face of trials, stronger than steel; covers a multitude of sins, with merciful grace; and never, never, never gives up. Alyosha’s kiss, what I thought cowardly and weak, is one of the most courageous and strong actions. This is love of Christ for His church, the love we should all aspire to.

Alyosha, the one constant character in the entire book, strives to live with faith and love. The final pages leave us with his exhortation to love – the verbal expression of his kiss earlier in the book. I’ll never forget that first disappointment with this book, and neither will I forget the huge encouragement I have gained from this past reading. I can never forget Dostoevsky’s world, so real, almost too real, but now I see a shining glory, where before I only saw grief. This past reading under Mr. Callihan’s tutelage has taught me to learn more, so much more, about myself, the world around me. And how to forgive Alyosha. May we all strive for a Christ-like love like his!

(I wrote this for my GB class)


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