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.

Today was 4th of July…

Today was in many ways a wonderful 4th of July. Woke up not too early or later; around 8:00am. As usual walked to the front and back yard and listened for birds. Have this new app on my phone that is associated with a university research project in Germany where Ornithology students are trying to catalog all song birds around the world essentially. It is so cool. You record the birds you hear singing; you easily cut a snippet of the audio file, which by the way, you can visually see on the screen a sort of image of the sound waves represented–again, very cool–then submit the sample for analysis on your phone. It comes back with an answer pretty quickly. You cans save it too if you like. It tells you in various degrees of certainty what species of bird was singing in your sample. It also provides a link to the scientific name with a photo and any and all information you want to follow to learn more, if that is what you want to do.

I then brewed a large pot of Arabian Mocha Java I bought yesterday from Peet’s my favorite coffee chain, and relaxed for a short time sipping very delicious black coffee and skimming through my news on the phone, or thumbing through my August 2019 copy of Motor Trend; one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Something about car fantasies and reading the related articles allows me to escape reality of all the bad news that compete and push their way into my consciousness every waking minute; especially these days with the estate of affairs in the country.

Today I tried hard not to let the clown occupying the house that Abraham re-built worm his way into my mind and onto my beautiful 4th of July canvas. I failed. The little dictator wanna be was having his military parade–I did think about that. I tasted bile and almost forgot about all the birds and the delicious coffee. But, I resisted and did not let it poison my time and attention.

Moving on; later, I assembled a new charcoal grill, helped make a wonderful meal; of course mostly just rested on my laurels for having assembled the aforementioned “grill” and enjoyed the amazing cooking of my chef level spouse. She spends part of her time here, and the rest with her mother who needs her more than I do–always did. We have a large gas grill sitting and waiting in the backyard. She just had to get a charcoal grill, and to be honest it does taste different–so I suppose we are lucky to have both and enjoy them. Drank a couple of classic golden color Anchor Steams while engaged in the above; took a glorious afternoon nap, and enjoyed our backyard and the beautiful South Bay sunny weather.

More coffee after the nap; good conversation with the kids; my older daughter and her boyfriend; nice young people both. I then gave them a ride and dropped them off to watch the fireworks on a nearby lake; picked them up later and brought them back.

Idyllic day almost…Try as I had, I could not avoid at least thinking about the following:

  • The over two million Chinese Muslims who are being culturally erased, physically rounded up in places that cannot be called anything but concentration camps euphemistically referred to by the Chinese government as “reeducation” centers or some other nonsensical name. The children are being separated from the parents to make sure they will not learn their ethnic language, common history, stories, and well; what made them unique human beings.
  • When I dropped off my daughter and her boyfriend I suddenly realized it was a crowded place, in a country where any nutcase can buy and carry an assault rifle and I had no control over a very real and valid fear that while improbable, there was yet a chance something might happen to the child I love more than my life a thousand times over. If that does not suck to have to think about, I do not know what does.
  • A degenerate, ignorant, rude, crude, selfish narcissist was still president of the most important democratic experiment of the last five hundred years. Enlightenment has given us a great political and social opportunity to build something to be proud of–despite all imperfections we suffer of course, which are a usual part of our human frailties. Now, resurgence of ignorance and fear might be able to take that gift away from us. The damage is to some extent done already. Every dictator emulates our president, and is emboldened to do evil in the light of day without apology–too many examples to note–and our president is actually envious of these little dictators who admire and love him, because try as he does we still are good enough to not easily let him have his stupid way with everything. Those who support him are guilty of a bigger sin; silence in the face of constant undermining of checks and balances, integrity of laws and thereby weakening our democracy. No wise ally will ever easily trust a society that every four to eight years can change direction so radically that stability would never be within acceptable boundaries.

So, I had a great day–a wonderful amazing fortunate 4th of July…yet marked by the solemn realization that I am a Citizen who was an Immigrant; I know deeply what we have here, and what can be lost. I pray and will do what I can to at least stop this run-away train of idiocy, fear and ignorance. I am lucky enough to be a Californian. I hope we can pull all of the united states out of this muck next election. We will see.