Fyodor Dostoevsky Finds the Meaning of Life

“It was this parable of transgression, repentance, and forgiveness that he wished to leave as a last heritage to his children, and it may well be seen as his own ultimate understanding of the meaning of his life and the message of his work.” -Joseph Frank

As Dostoevsky laid knowing he would likely not survive for long, he asked that the parable of the Prodigal Son be read to his children.

“…you are ever with me, and all that I have is yours, but thy younger brother was lost and now he is found.” Luke 15:11–32

Most men, if lucky enough to grow wise, will admit they are the embodiment of the “prodigal son”–having wasted most of what life afforded them. But, there is much wisdom gained from a life considered “wasted”. Who is the judge of waste? How can anyone claim enough wisdom to know what is the value of a life lived? The parable of the prodigal son is about forgiveness. It is about wisdom just enough to know the nature of our humanity. To those who dare to judge, be it they are fine, accomplished and appear beyond reproach, the father says–you can have whatever else remains; know that we must rejoice the return of your brother who was lost.

Sister or brother–prodigal son, or prodigal sister–maybe we start from our “self”–and the need to forgive ourselves. If I am lost, I would rejoice just to be found. I hope to find you. I hope to be found by you.

Dostoevsky’s short story–under the title “The Dream of a Queer Fellow” and later published separately as The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, happens in waking hours of a suicidal man who later falls asleep and into a dream. When he wakes…he is no longer in the same state of mind. He has found the meaning of life, and it is itself–living.

A while ago, not yet had heard or read this short story, I told my youngest daughter about a revelation–that the meaning of life is “just living itself”. If you watched the recent movie “Soul”, it hints at the same–that life itself is a blessing, which comes close to the same idea. However one comes to this, if you do, it is liberating. I do forget this–this gem of a finding–every day–a hundred times a day. But, I hope I am lucky enough to remind myself of this and go back to it a hundred and first time each day too.

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