Thursday, November 29, 2007

Everything is fine...

The following excerpt is from the pages of "Gooseberries," a short story by Anton Chekhov. In this narrative, a man reflects in disgust on the newly acquired affluence of his brother, now called "Your Honor" by his peasant servants, who adores gooseberries and rises in the middle of the night to gorge his fat body on their sour, tough flesh. His sorrowful words remind me of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) and they make the warning of Jesus resound even more ominously: "Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your reward" (Luke 6:24).

"There are, in fact, so many contented, happy people! What an overwhelming force! Just look at this life: the insolence and idleness of the strong, the ignorance and brutishness of the weak, impossible poverty all around us, overcrowding, degeneracy, drunkenness, hypocrisy, lies... Yet in all the houses and streets it's quiet, peaceful; of the fifty thousand people who live in town there is not one who would cry out or become loudly indignant. We see those who go to the market to buy food, eat during the day, sleep during the night, who talk their nonsense, get married, grow old, complacently drag their dead to the cemetary; but we don't see or hear those who suffer, and the horrors of life go on somewhere behind the scenes. Everything is quiet, peaceful, and only mute statistics protest: so many gone mad, so many buckets drunk, so many children dead of malnutrition... And this order is obviously necessary; obviously the happy man feels good only because the unhappy bear their burden silently, and without that silence happiness would be impossible. It's a general hypnosis. At the door of every contented, happy man somebody should stand with a little hammer, constantly tapping, to remind him that unhappy people exist, that however happy he may be, sooner or later life will show him its claws, some calamity will befall him--illness, poverty, loss--and nobody will hear or see, just as he doesn't hear or see others now. But there is nobody with a little hammer, the happy man lives on, and the petty cares of life stir him only slightly, as wind stirs an aspen--and everything is fine."

P.S. For all the interested preachers out there: the short stories of Anton Chekhov are a "must read" for honing your skills in the composition and communication of detailed, interesting, and meaningful lived experiences (a.k.a., illustrations) for use in preaching.

5 comments:

Tim said...

Does this mean that you've finished your papers?!?!?!?!

If so, are you feeling an "A" coming on? O.O

Let's hope so!

Tim

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Yes, I'm all done. I haven't figured out what to write yet in praise to God for that, but I'll get there soon, I hope. In the mean time, Chekhov it is!

I still have finals in the next two weeks, but as you know, compared to research papers, they're cake.

Thanks for the encouragement, Tim,

Emily

UnderMidnight said...

I saw a production of adaptations of Chekov's plays at the theater in Austin a few years ago.

It rocked and I plan on reading his stuff whenever I get a chance.

I like Russian literature because it doesn't seem to be a total ripoff of the Greeks, which pretty much sums up all of English literature until the 20th century.

Tim said...

Just to show how my higher education did not rub off on me...

When you mentioned Chekhov, my first thought was Star Trek!

;)

Tim

Steve said...

I tell you what, between Dostoyevsky and Checkov, I didn't miss not having to wade through Tolstoy a bit! Those guys thought waaay to much about, and of, what they wrote. Shel Silverstein was more my speed.