Today’s perspective, represented by this photo by Samuel Silitonga on Pexels.com
The Law of Love
The “Golden Rule” as it is often known appears in some form in most human religions or belief systems.
It is one of my favourite principles.
This “Law of Love” was also the main principle, arguably, of the late writer/philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevky.
“Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”
A oil portrait style painting of Fyodor Dostoyevsky hung in the hallway of my childhood home for many years.
Passing by this image every day of a stern man in a Russian fur hat, I mistook him for one of my Ukrainian relatives. In the dark hallway with its wood paneling, the muted tones of the painting leant him a very mysterious look, where his face almost snuck up on you.
Maybe someone tried to explain who he was once but I did not understand them… Either way, for years I believed he was my great grandfather, and I thought he was watching over me.
In some way then, Dostoyevsky was kind of like a God-like figure to me, with his face floating in the hall watching over me.
Dostoyevsky himself was quite religious, although I am decidedly, determinably, not. Like my Ukrainian ancestors, this man in his real life was raised Orthodox, the religion that Russia is using currently as an excuse to ask the Ukraine to hold off of their (counter) attacks in the current war. (If you have not heard, they are saying all bombings should cease while the countries celebrate Orthodox Christmas.)
Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox are not exactly the same but they are both celebrated on what Christians call the Epiphany, which is today.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky basically wrote hardcore philosophy books disguised as novels.
Religion was a big theme for his writing. In the end though, it was not religion that saved him from his terrible gambling problem, it was love and likely a sh!t ton of hard work on the behalf of his young second wife, Anna.*
Likewise, in my own father’s life, it was not his extreme intelligence nor any religion that helped him get in control of his gambling, if was the devotion he felt to his wife (and I hope, me).
It may also have helped my father that he seems to have accepted some version of this idea, another Dostoyevky quote:
Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.
Clearly, I do like the ideas of the man.
I do not know enough to say, as Einstein did, that “Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist.” (He also ranked Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov as “the supreme summit of all literature”).
In my own life, it has become apparent that in addition to being directed my whole life by the Law of Love, I am also driven by another:
“Without some goal and some effort to reach it no man can live.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Prison Life in Siberia
Therefore, with this personal epiphany, with love and with effort, I go forth into 2023.
*For more on the story of Dostoyevsky, his gambling habit and his young stenographer wife’s role in quitting, read ‘The Gambler Wife’.