For Yuri. Something somewhat speculative & savagely sloppy, regarding acts of writing in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, and possible anticipations, in the Christian tradition, of what seems to be Dostoyevsky’s attitude about writing there.
I am trying to work this thought out as I write about it. By way of framing, at the outset, what I’m getting at, I should note that, in part four of this little series (broken up because of length), I have written that
the literary activity of [the earliest Christians] is not, however, undertaken in order to be a virtuoso or contribute to a body of literature for a culture or civilization, or as an abstract expression of creativity merely to be appreciated, or as a form of play, or as a product to entertain, but in order to change the hearts of hearers, urgently, immediately, and to build up the hearts of Christians who have received these words within a network of communities.
There are a number of motives that bring one to write in The Brothers Karamazov, but this intention to enliven and to change and to enlarge hearts seems to separate good from bad writing there; writing there does not seem to be a unified activity, seems only superficially connected across its occurrences, and the meaning and value it is represented as having is, I suggest, better categorized by the character of the writer, the impulse flowing from the heart of the writer, and the purpose bringing that one to write, than by any category of literary activity.
This may seem odd to note, but Dostoyevksy seems to be making this point himself, and, occasionally, to emphasize it.
Looking at early Christian practices regarding writing, antecedents within Jewish writings, and templates within the early Christian patristic ascetical corpus, are helpful at framing this distinction.
This excerpt is too long to conscientiously include in the upcoming post I was going to cite it in, so I’m shaving it off and leaving it here.
Needless to say, the spiritual aspirations of ascetical practices and the cultivation of interior stillness are so far removed from our rabidly online existence and culture of online commenting that it seems clear that the very virtues that most of these fora lack and need are at massive cross-purposes with them.
The excerpt below is of interest in looking at various motives for writing, or not writing, and at least one kind of concern and purpose that runs afoul, in principle if not in practice, of the purposes that can often attend to writing. Also of concern is the understanding of words, and speaking, and the highest aims one ascribes to both — and whether writing is ever more than a proxy for that.
This formulation is, perhaps, approaching what many today would consider extreme (in rhetoric, if not in actual sentiment — though it is not far from the attitude of those who pull out of social media altogether, or who get rid of their cell phones), but for that very reason, helpful.