‘Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life.’ A. Solzhenitsyn.
How is it possible?
Why as much as how.
Isn’t it just masochistic to embrace and almost wish for the kind of suffering portioned out by life?
Surely the whole point is to steer clear of the really bad stuff. Aren’t we hardwired into the instinct for self preservation that would prefer to duck a ten year stretch for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or saying something out of place?
Well, yes, and I’m sure Sol would have rather been tucked up in his own bed, but shit happens and when it does it requires our negotiation.
”For there, lying on the rotten straw, I came to realise that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe but the maturity of the human soul.’ (ibid)
What is Sol’s secret? How is it possible to be gobbled down by fate on some pretext that mocks all reason and still emerge in one piece, grown, in fact?
Where is the bitterness, the utterly justifiable cry of foul play?
The great beauty of Sol is that despite being harried by inhuman forces and made to suffer the worst privation, to the point where death might have been a sweet release, he never gives the sense that he feels victimised by Stalin, or that his own humanity is ever lost. In fact, his experience is the opposite, like manure to roses.
I read ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ half a dozen times, searching for that ‘how’?. Then fate landed me, quite randomly, in my own bed of rotting straw.
My first thought was, ‘this isn’t fair’.
If you say so.
What, look what they did to me?
And what are you doing to you?
Nothing, just lying here with my nose close enough to the floor not to smell the shit that’s been daubed on the walls in lieu of a paintset. Ge’meouttahere.
Could this be good for anything?
What like, oh, I must have been bad and this is my Karma?
No, but go down that route if you like, I can see how much it appeals to you.
What other option is there? I’m in the grip of malevolent forces!
Ah, the magic word….
I don’t have any frikkin options do I? I’m hogtied like a bitch.
if you like…
look, you do have options, right now you are exercising the option to moan like a baby. Problem is you don’t realise you already made a choice, or, actually, that you made a choice without realising that’s what you did because you are sooo busy looking after the sacred cow of there being only one way to approach life, one possible set of values, one reason for being…… and then you start squealing when you get to experience just how much you have limited yourself.
Ok, big shot. Enlighten me…
As you wish…
How much faith do you have in the values you were raised with?
And yet here you are saying life can only be meaningful if you live out the mores, the limited perspectives, the material values passed down to you….
I just want to go home.
There you go again. You are on automatic pilot with only one bearing, one engine, one chart. There is no perspective.
I’m in the grip of…
..not having any perspective. Oh dear, it really is bad.
Now you are mocking me..
Not really. You are in trouble but not the kind you think. The prison is inside, one you’d carry with you even if life spat you back on the street.
And the reason is that you only have one way of looking at things. Two legs good, four legs bad. You have one idea of what it means to be free, one idea of what constitutes meaning, one notion of what it means to be successful, and all derived from The Man in whose sainted grip you currently reside. And what this means is that life will continually frustrate and annoy even when he lets you go…
that would be good.
not if you only have one way of experiencing it. An obstacle is whatever frustrates our one-dimensional veiw of life. At the very least it gives us the opportunity to reveiw our situation but this can only be done by reminding ourselves that life’s meaning is liable to be a lot bigger that we could ever imagine.
But I want to be free…
which could only be had by one thing occuring.. someone else’s key in the lock..See? How about being free right where you are, without having to armwrestle the Universe? How would it be to experience freedom from different points of veiw? For starters, free from or free to?
And then other interesting stuff like, what has my suffering given me, how has my ease kept me back, what do I want besides what I’m told I want? Your rotten straw will be good for all that.
Yeh, Sol spent 300 pages slagging of the Narcissistic depersonalisation of Stalin, but then , with supreme courage, asks ‘what did we want him for’?
The plot thickens,’ there is good and there is bad and that is good’, as the old Gnostics used to say. We grow through hardship, consolidate and recharge through times of plenty and have to have both to live and grow. There really are people out there who’ve had the perfect childhood and everything laid on you know…
Yeah, and they’re all as dull as ditchwater.
”Do not rejoice when you have found. Do not weep when you have lost. Your soul, which was formerly dry, ripens with suffering.” (ibid)