It is shown that the chapters’ arrangement of the novel «A Hero of Our Time» corresponds to the «five noble truths» of Dostoevsky. Disbelief is the main reason for the death of Pechorin. Biblical motives in the novel. Pechorin and the birth of a new life.
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
- “A Hero of Our Time” and five noble truths.
- Pechorin and disbelief.
- Communication problems of extraterrestrial intelligence.
- “A Hero of Our Time” and biblical stories.
- Pechorin and the birth of a new life.
“A Hero of Our Time” and five noble truths.
The chapters’ arrangement of “A Hero of Our Time” does not correspond to the chronology of events. The logic of this arrangement becomes clear if we compare the main ideological content of these chapters and the “five noble truths” — this is how I want to name the ideas that I analyzed in the articles “A.S.Pushkin’s “The Little Tragedies”, as a blueprint of F.M.Dostoevsky’s main novels.” and “Homology in Russian classical literature.”
“Bela”. Autonomous ethics.
The strategy with which Pechorin won Bela’s heart is quite consistent with the “science of tender passion” from the first chapter of Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin”. Finally, Onegin was so tired of both “freaky women of big world” and “young beauties” that he completely lost zest for life, although he still did not want try to shoot himself. The same thing happened with Pechorin.
Each society has its own concepts of morality, and St. Petersburg of the 19th century was quite tolerant to debauchery of young people, for girls and women it was completely unacceptable. Exotic societies such as the wild peoples of the Caucasus generally had rather strange and unusual ideas about morality and the scale of life values. For young Azamat, a good horse can mean more than anything else. He calmly exchanges his sister for a horse and for the Circassian world this is completely normal. When Kazbich killed father of Azamat and Bela, thus rewarding himself for the loss of the horse, Maksim Maksimovich took it quite calmly: “Of course, in their own way,” said the captain, “he was absolutely right.” At the same time, Pechorin noted that he “was involuntarily struck by the ability of Russian person to apply the customs of those peoples among which he happens to live; I do not know whether this property of the mind is worthy of blame or praise, only it proves its incredible flexibility and the presence of clear common sense.” This approach can be called “Autonomous Ethics”. Each event and deed may be evaluated only in the context of specific situation. The same action can be considered as a crime in one case, and as a heroism in another.
When two societies with very different traditions and concepts collide, this can lead to dramatic consequences. Pechorin’s attitude to religions was rather cool. He baffles Muslim girl by reasoning about whom Allah permits to love. The fifth chapter of the Quran says that men are allowed to love Christians and Jews:
So are chaste believing women, and chaste women from the people who were given the Scripture before you, provided you give them their dowries, and take them in marriage…1
Women, however, cannot love Christians, and this puts a woman in an unequal position, which Bela probably should not like. If man can, why can’t I? She does not pay attention to the fact that Pechorin is a Christian and the commandments of the Koran have nothing to do with him.
When Bela died, Pechorin was glad of her death. Maksim Maksimovich says: “You know, for the sake of decency I wanted to console him, I started talking; he raised his head and laughed … I got a frost on my skin from this laugh…”2 The captain also reacted positively to this death, actually justifying Kazbich: “No, she did well that she died: well, what would she become if Grigory Alexandrovich left her? And it would have happened, sooner or later…” But can the death of a loved one in general be considered something good?
“Maxim Maksimovich”. Thou shalt not make unto thee any image.
At a chance meeting with Pechorin, Maxim Maksimovich wanted to throw himself on his neck, but Gregory only shook his hand. Captain did not expect this and was greatly offended. In his mind, the staff captain created the image of a “good old friend” with whom he really spent a lot of time in the fortress. But one should not create idols, because when they appear in real form, great misunderstanding can arise. The novel’s chronicler describes this effect as follows:
Sad it is to see when a young man loses his best hopes and dreams, when from before his eyes is withdrawn the rose-hued veil through which he has looked upon the deeds and feelings of mankind; although there is the hope that the old illusions will be replaced by new ones, none the less evanescent, but, on the other hand, none the less sweet. But wherewith can they be replaced when one is at the age of Maksim Maksimych? Do what you will, the heart hardens and the soul shrinks in upon itself.
In this chapter, Pechorin is completely disillusioned with life and already stands with one foot in the coffin. If such a person does not commit suicide, then death soon finds itself, which happened. Pechorin did not die in battle, but simply “returning from Persia.” The chronicler was glad of his death, since it made it possible to calmly publish the Pechorin magazine, putting his signature under it.
Pechorin threw out his diaries: the life of the person who was in these papers now seemed to him insignificant, empty and alien. Although in one place Pechorin wrote: “I am writing this magazine for myself and, consequently, whatever I throw into it, will eventually be a precious memory for me.” Andrey Makarevich in poem “Flag over the castle” explains:
Fatigue remains from unnecessary victories
If tomorrow does not promise anything.3
In his imagination, Pechorin created a wonderful, ideal life, but when faced with reality, the created idol crumbled to dust.
I have entered upon that life after having already lived through it in thought, and it has become wearisome and nauseous to me, as the reading of a bad imitation of a book is to one who has long been familiar with the original.
The cause of Pechorin’s tragedy is reminiscent of Yesenin’s. In the poem “The Golden Grove Dissuaded”, the poet writes:
I don’t feel sorry for the years being squandered,
Or for a lilac thriving of my soul.
A fire of rowan berries, in the courtyard,
Is burning red albeit unable to warm.
He calls his poems “one unwanted lump”. Whole life seems to him a beautiful fictional tale:
Presently I do not feel a yearning,
Oh, my life! Have I been sleeping fast?
Well, it feels like early in the morning
On a rosy horse I’ve galloped past.4
In Yesenin’s poem “The Black Man”, someone appears explaining to the poet that his life was empty and meaningless, filled with exaggerated effects and banal desires. Striking the “black man in the bridge of nose” with a cane, he only breaks own reflection in mirror.
The moon has died.
Dawn glimmers in the window.
What, night, what have you ruined?
I stand top-hatted.
No one is with me.
I am alone…
And the mirror is broken.5
In the chapter “Taman,” the smuggler Yanko is engaged in a kind of underground business, while violating state legislation. He is assisted by a young girl whom Pechorin calls “Undine,” that is, a water nymph. Their activities give meaning to life for a hard of hearing old woman and a blind boy. The boy regards Yanko as a great hero: “Yanko is not afraid of sea, nor winds, nor mist, nor coastguards! Just listen! That is not the water plashing, you can’t deceive me — it is his long oars.»
The enthusiastic feelings of the blind boy are practically the same as Tatyana’s blind love in the third chapter of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. Yanko is just doing business. A boy and old woman are his temporary assistants. He does not affraid of sea, but when danger to his business arises, Yanko throws both the blind boy and the deaf old woman without hesitation:
Tell the old woman that it is time for her to die; she has been here a long time, and the line must be drawn somewhere. As for us, she will never see us any more.
“And I?” said the blind boy in a plaintive voice.
“What use have I for you?” was the answer.
In the form of compensation for the moral damage caused, Yanko throws a couple of coins to the blind:
He placed something in the blind boy’s hand and added:
“There, buy yourself some gingerbreads.”
“Is this all?” said the blind boy.
“Well, here is some more.”
The money fell and jingled as it struck the rock.
The blind boy did not pick it up.
This is a bit like the story of Erast and Lisa in “Poor Liza” by Karamzin, but it is doubtful that the blind boy will drown in the sea. Undine is so devoted to her Yanko that she jumps into his boat without hesitation, also leaving the boy and the old woman to their fate, although a friend takes the girl with him only because “she cannot stay here”.
Despite that blind and deaf feelings suggest, a simple cold calculation lives its own life, and no matter how Tatyana Larina sees herself as the heroine of a novel, in the next chapter she will have a calm and intelligible lecture from Eugene Onegin.
“Mary”. Law of loaves.
As a rule, the goal of any show business is to decorate reality in order to have the maximum effect when influencing the audience. For a literary work that does not have the goal of documenting reality, this is quite normal. People often put on a variety of masks in order to create some special impression of themselves. Lermontov did not like it …
How often, surrounded by a motley crowd,
When in front of me, as if through a dream,
With the noise of music and dance,
With a wild whisper of recited speeches,
Images of soulless people flash,
Decency tightened masks,
When, having come to my senses, I will find out the deception
And the noise of the human crowd will frighten my dream,
For a holiday, an uninvited guest,
Oh, how I want to embarrass their gaiety
And boldly throw an iron verse in their eyes,
Drenched in bitterness and anger!..6
Andrei Makarevich also mentioned in his poems the topic of wearing masks and sarcastically over them …
Wear masks, wear masks,
Only under the mask
You can remain yourself!
And if a friend has trouble —
It’s not too late to wear a mask of participation,
Under the mask, like in a fairy tale, you are invisible,
And you can laugh as much as you like
Over your friend.7
In the world of strict truths and rules, everything false sooner or later leaves. If person in his imagination transforms reality into an idol as he pleases, when the image collides with reality, the objective truth always wins. A classic example is the desire of humans to center the Earth and make the Sun revolve around it. Despite the number of heretics burned at the stake, a rigorous scientific approach proves that the Earth still revolves around the Sun. Although, destruction of blown soap bubbles can sometimes have dramatic consequences. The central dialogue of the fourth chapter of “Eugene Onegin” is Evgeny’s conversation with Tatiana. He logically and reasonably explains to the girl that he cannot and does not want to respond to her feelings.
Pechorin’s explanation with Mary resembles Onegin’s monologue, but Eugene did nothing to make Tatiana fall in love with him. Pechorin flirted with Mary only for the sake of pleasure, in fact, mocking her limitation and coquetry.
Grushnitsky can symbolize show business.
he is one of those people who have a high-sounding phrase ready for every occasion in life, who remain untouched by simple beauty, and who drape themselves majestically in extraordinary sentiments, exalted passions and exceptional sufferings. To produce an effect is their delight; they have an almost insensate fondness for romantic provincial ladies.
His dislike for Pechorin is the usual attitude of people living with exaggerated images and social stereotypes towards those who have individual, independent thinking, who laugh at the stupidity covered by ostrich feathers.
Vera is the only woman who understands Pechorin, but financial situation for her is above all and the well-being of her children is dearer than Pechorin’s hopeless love. In support of the “Law of Breads” she prefers to marry a rich elderly man. Neither Pechorin’s driven horse, nor Vera’s frank explanation with her husband can unite Gregory with Vera.
“Fatalist”. The lust for life is stronger.
If the “law of loaves” had absolute and unlimited power, then all life would be uniquely “predetermined”. If we throw a ball from a certain height, then it reaches the ground in a very specific time and you could not change this time without some other disturbance. However, the fundamental difference between living organisms and inanimate nature lies in the fact that life violates the “law of bread”, sometimes only in order to declare itself. Therefore, Vulich’s interest in the question of whether a person can determine his life path himself or “everything is written in advance in heaven” is quite understandable. But even if everything is strict and accurate, in most optimal and “correct” way, then there can always be such a random extraconscious factor that will turn all strict logical constructions to dust. A simple question to a distraught drunken officer cost Vulich his life. Vysotsky wrote:
And a chances fly like bullets —
Crazy, belated, blind, at the end, —
Some dared to substitute for them —
And immediately: who is in the grave, who is held in high esteem.
Others haven’t noticed
And we, so dodged —
On purpose or on omen —
Stumbled on the right leg.8
Pechorin acts contrary to logic and prudence due to boredom. To experience the thrill, he risking his life when helps to capture a drunken officer alive. When Mary was already completely in his power, he did not fall at her feet, but abruptly abandoned her. In Makarevich’s song “Barrier” it sounds like this:
And the last ice was broken.
And the path is open, it remains only to go forward,
But you just stopped, did not make a step,
The open path was worse than the fierce enemy
and eternal ice.9
In Lermontov’s poem “A lonely sail is whitening,” the boat does not strive for happiness and does not flee from happiness — it constantly asks for a storm, as if there is peace in the storm. Makarevich has similar motives:
Complete calm, sails like rags.
The world is tired, fell asleep in a lazy folly.
I pray that heaven will send me a drop of wind.
Let the storm come stronger! 10
In Pushkin’s “A Scene from Faust”, Faust asks Mephistopheles to sink a Spanish ship with a “fashionable disease” only out of boredom. In the song “Barrier” Makarevich notes that if a person lives only by fighting against obstacles in a constant storm, then what will he do if all the ways are open?
While you were walking at a red light,
you were a hero, no doubt about it.
Nobody could turn you out of the way.
But if all paths are open,
where to go and who to go with?
And how would you find your way then? 11
A person who has emptiness inside is always afraid to be left alone with himself. He always needs external disturbing factors. With them, he fills his spiritual void. For such a person in condition of complete calm, life ends.
Pechorin and disbelief.
If a person is rich enough not to think about where to get money, then his fate is controlled mainly by moral and ideological issues. Unlike Pushkin, who made money by writing, Lermontov was the heir to a huge fortune and never needed money, like his hero Pechorin. Explaining the principles by which our world is arranged, the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s book The Brothers Karamazov explained the need for “faith” as follows:
For the secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living, and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth, though he had bread in abundance. 12
All paths are open to Pechorin, and in order to somehow entertain himself in his life, he rushes into one thing, then another… and everything is in vain and if some path is closed, as in the case of Vera, then it is absolutely closed and there is not a single chance to go in this direction. If you try to find a quality in Pechorin, which can be called “typical” for our time, then it will be “unbelief”. Gregory completely loses all desire to live in this world, because he does not understand why he should live. All entertainment is over, all paths are open — where to go now? Why should a man live if everything in the world is available and all this entertainment is deadly boring?
In the original version of the preface to “The Hero of Our Time”, Lermontov wrote: “If you believed in the existence of Melmot, Vampire and others, why don’t you believe in the reality of Pechorin?” Initially, his hero was supposed to be something completely unique, like Lermontov’s “Demon”, but later the writer decided to make his Pechorin the most ordinary and even “typical” person. In the third chapter of “Eugene Onegin”, dedicated to the description of emergence of Tatyana’s love for Onegin, there is a list of Tatyana’s literary preferences:
The fables of the British Muse
disturb the young girl’s sleep,
and now her idol has become
either the pensive Vampyre,
or Melmoth, gloomy vagabond,
or the Wandering Jew, or the Corsair,
or the mysterious Sbogar.
Lord Byron, by an opportune caprice,
in woebegone romanticism
draped even hopeless egotism.13
It should be remembered that all of these heroes adhered to very ambiguous principles of ethics. For example, Melmot, following Faust, concludes an agreement with the devil, selling his soul to get beyond his capabilities. At the end of Charles Maturin’s book, the dark forces take Melmoth with them. The end of Pechorin is drawn completely simple and banal — he does not die in battle or in a duel, he is not carried away by the devil. He dies simply “on the way from Persia” in fact from boredom and “from unbelief.” Note, that Yesenin while traveling to the Caucasus, dreamed of visiting Persia and died soon after return to Russia.
The term “faith” here should be understood not as a specific religion — Christianity, Buddhism or something else, but in the spirit of the Grand Inquisitor — “a firm idea why to live.” Pechorin does not have this idea and in the banal world where he lives such a view cannot arise and for this reason Grigory can be called “a hero of our time”.
Communication problems of extraterrestrial intelligence.
Let us assume that extraterrestrial intelligence (IE) exists and has gone far in its development in comparison with human society on Earth. What problems may arise if he wants to communicate with people? IE can be viewed as a kind of abstract type of “god”. Harald Reinl’s 1970 film “Chariots of the Gods”14 suggests that all earthly religions were created by aliens. This does not exclude the assumption of monotheism — that “alien” is only one and resembles “Solaris” from the book of Stanislav Lem.
The first chapter of “A Hero of Our Time”shows that many social groups coexist in the world with widely differing ethical principles and it is unclear which principles IE should adhere to in order to avoid hostility. The ignorance and simplicity of a savage people and primitive religions is as annoying as the coquetry and spiritual emptiness of a secular society. How and what will he teach, and most importantly for what purpose? Should IE have a “purpose in life” or like Makarevich wrote:
And the night looks mysteriously through the open window.
Holes of stars on the dress of darkness — torn stuff.
Apparently, he has enough work without me,
Well, maybe he, like us, lost his strength…
Well, maybe he, like us, has lost knowledge…
Well, maybe he, like us, has lost faith…15
Pechorin discusses in the chapter “Fatalist”:
the stars were shining tranquilly in the deep, blue vault of the sky; and I was struck by the absurdity of the idea when I recalled to mind that once upon a time there were some exceedingly wise people who thought that the stars of heaven participated in our insignificant squabbles for a slice of ground, or some other imaginary rights.
However, no matter how deeply Pechorin looked into the secrets of Genesis, no one needs it. When trying to discuss with Maksim Maksimych the questions of predestination and the role of “stars” in life, he meets only banal arguments about the unreliability of “Asian hammers” when they are badly oiled and Circassian rifles. The captain uses the phrase “to be fated to him” as a simple cliche, regardless of its literal meaning. One should remember here higher mathematics. In order to understand the proof of a theorem, you need to have good abstract thinking. There are no axioms and theorems in the humanities, and people who do not understand anything at all can talk about high-profile topics without problems. Unlike mathematics, it is not easy to create a sufficiently objective examination in humanitarian matters to point out narrow-minded people where their place is: one should just look at those who ruled culture in the USSR. There are much fewer problems with mathematics professors.
Maksim Maksimovich in front of Pechorin looks like a schoolboy communicating with an academician. At the same time, the staff-captain believes that he is a “bosom friend” for Pechorin, which, given such an abyss of levels in abstract thinking, cannot come close. If IE has gone far enough in its development, then what level of abstract thinking in humanities should he assume in his earthly interlocutor?
Each faith and religion has its own ideas about deities, existing in the form of lifeless idols. But the idol is alive while he is dead. If the idol shows signs of being alive, then the quiet world of religion kick the bucket. In chapter “Taman” Pechorin “like a stone thrown into a smooth spring” ravaged the “peaceful circle of honest smugglers” only with the threat of “informing the commandant”. Destruction of communist ideology in Russia was greatly aided by the debunking of Lenin’s personality cult.
Human society lives with concepts often have nothing to do with objective truth. If, for example, physical principles are found that allow unlimited free and clean energy, then nothing will help the oil and gas industry to survive. IE no doubt knows all the sources of energy planned to power people for millennia in the future, that oil and gas will soon run out. However, should he inform people about this if, together with the blessing, this will lead to an economic disaster? Modern industry will die in the same way as Grushnitsky from Pechorin’s bullet.
So, how the world develops and if “God” exists, then what role does he play in this? Does “God” have plans, or does he look at the world as calm, cold and indifferent stars?
“A Hero of Our Time” and biblical stories.
If you rearrange the chapters of the novel in chronological order, you get the following:
- “Princess Mary”
- “Maxim Maximovich”
- “Preface to Pechorin’s Journal”
Let’s see what parallels can be found here with some biblical stories.
“Taman”. Parable about the wedding feast.
The Grand Inquisitor lets his interlocutor go to the “dark hailstones”. This refers to the biblical parable of the “wedding feast”. When the “invited” refused to come to the feast, “Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.”16. As a result, instead of the “chosen” there were deaf and blind from the “dumb hailstones”. Pechorin, who is in the civil service, could not find a place to sleep in official places and found himself among the lawbreakers along with the deaf and blind. Christianity found wide strata of the illiterate population as its medium and violated the state religion. Not a single Christian text has been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls that have collected literature from a large period of Jewish history, including the first century AD.
Christian mythology has absorbed many motives of the national religion of Ancient Egypt: the Mother of God with the baby exactly repeats the image of Isis with Horus, and the idea of a dying and resurrecting god is a repetition of the legend of Osiris. Originally, the books of the evangelists were written in Koine Greek, the ancient spoken language of wide streets and squares, which was spoken in Egypt. The idea of the “Eucharist” repeats the Mithraic ritual of eating the flesh and blood of the sun god Mithra, whose birthday was celebrated on the day that later became “Christmas.” The cult of Mithra was widespread among sects throughout the Roman Empire, including Egypt. It can be assumed that Christianity did not originate and developed in Judea, but in Egypt and the main medium of its spread were Egyptian Jews and Egyptians, supporters of various non-traditional cults that stood in opposition to the official religion.
As the Grand Inquisitor clearly explains, the one who was taken as the basis for the creation of religious doctrine and the church can become its main enemy. To do this, he only needs to appear in his usual form and add a few words to what was said and transferred to the hands of the clergy. At the same time, all the deaf and blind who believe in the Inquisitor will be abandoned, just as the blind boy and the deaf old woman were by Yanko with Undine. There is an opinion that the name “RUSsians” came from lived along the river channels (RUSla in Russian) pagan “water nymphs” (RUSalka in Russian) that is, “Undines”.
“Mary”. Cana of Galilee.
Grushnitsky describes the lifestyle “on the waters” as follows: “It is a rather prosaic life,” he said, with a sigh. “Those who drink the waters in the morning are inert—like all invalids, and those who drink the wines in the evening are unendurable—like all healthy people!” The motley society of Pyatigorsk is somewhat reminiscent of Veronese’s painting “Cana of Galilee”, which describes the first gospel miracle — the transformation of water into wine. Grushnitsky’s desire to become a “hero of the novel”, to imagine himself as “a creature not created for the world, doomed to some kind of secret suffering,” like Mary’s coquetry isn’t it attempt to turn “water” into “wine”? The English name “Mary” corresponds to the Russian name Maria and comes from the ancient Egyptian word “mry”, which means “beloved”. This is one of the oldest surviving names in the world.
The Grand Inquisitor explained to his interlocutor the power of the “law of bread” as follows:
But seest Thou these stones in this parched and barren wilderness? Turn them into bread, and mankind will run after Thee like a flock of sheep, grateful and obedient, though for ever trembling, lest Thou withdraw Thy hand and deny them Thy bread…
Thou didst promise them the bread of Heaven, but, I repeat again, can it compare with earthly bread in the eyes of the weak, ever sinful and ignoble race of man? And if for the sake of the bread of Heaven thousands shall follow Thee, what is to become of the millions and tens of thousands of millions of creatures who will not have the strength to forego the earthly bread for the sake of the heavenly?
But if the interlocutor of the Grand Inquisitor rejected the power of “breads”, who then turned “water” into “wine”?
The theme of miraculous transformation of water into wine is one of Dostoevsky’s favorite themes. In the book “The Brothers Karamazov” there is an episode when Elder Zosima, the spiritual father of Alyosha, who was considered a saint during his lifetime, dies in the monastery. It was hot weather and a pernicious spirit began to go from Zosima’s body, which is quite natural, but those around him took this as evidence that the Elder was not at all a saint. The idol is alive while he is dead, but if he shows signs of live, he immediately dies. The pernicious spirit of the dead body completed deified life of Elder. After his death, Zosima turned wine into water, but such a death can be called a resurrection from the dead, which is tantamount to turning water into wine. In the chapter “Cana of Galilee,” while Paisius reads the parable about first miracle of Jesus, Alyosha falls asleep and in a dream he goes to a wedding feast, where a dry old man in the voice of Zosima says to Alyosha: “We have fun, we drink new wine, wine of new, great joy; see how many guests? Here is the bride and groom, here is the wise architect, trying new wine.” After that, Alyosha finally abandons the monastery and goes into the world.
“Fatalist”. The Last Supper and the Death of Rome.
It is believed that the 53rd chapter of the prophet Isaiah describes the future suffering and death of God’s messenger. Does this mean that the fate of this “messenger” was written in heaven long before his birth and he could not change it? Or is it not? The legend of “The Last Supper” tells that Jesus, feasting at a table with friends, predicts that he will be betrayed, after which the prophecy should be fulfilled.
The story told in the chapter “Fatalist” began in the evening, at the table when officers got tired of playing and threw the cards under table. It was discussed opinion that the fate of a person was written in heaven, and each one told different extraordinary cases pro or contra.
Interestingly, Einstein disliked quantum mechanics for its probabilistic nature and once said that “God does not play dice”, emphasizing that our world is completely deterministic. But is the development of civilizations governed by some higher intention, and if there is IE, then what is the degree of its possible interference in the life of people? Pechorin reasons like this:
And what then? These lamps, lighted, so they fancied, only to illuminate their battles and triumphs, are burning with all their former brilliance, whilst the wiseacres themselves, together with their hopes and passions, have long been extinguished, like a little fire kindled at the edge of a forest by a careless wayfarer! But, on the other hand, what strength of will was lent them by the conviction that the entire heavens, with their innumerable habitants, were looking at them with a sympathy, unalterable, though mute!… And we, their miserable descendants, roaming over the earth, without faith, without pride, without enjoyment, and without terror—except that involuntary awe which makes the heart shrink at the thought of the inevitable end—we are no longer capable of great sacrifices, either for the good of mankind or even for our own happiness, because we know the impossibility of such happiness; and, just as our ancestors used to fling themselves from one delusion to another, we pass indifferently from doubt to doubt, without possessing, as they did, either hope or even that vague though, at the same time, keen enjoyment which the soul encounters at every struggle with mankind or with destiny.
The Grand Inquisitor comments on one of the temptations as follows:
When the wise and dread spirit set Thee on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Thee, “If Thou wouldst know whether Thou art the Son of God then cast Thyself down, for it is written: the angels shall hold him up lest he fall and bruise himself, and Thou shalt know then whether Thou art the Son of God and shalt prove then how great is Thy faith in Thy Father.” But Thou didst refuse and wouldst not cast Thyself down.
And if he threw himself down, could he change his purpose and divine plan? In the story of A.S. Pushkin “The Queen of Spades” a magical sequence of cards “Three”, “Seven” and “Ace” appears. Putting them together you get “137”. By a mysterious coincidence, this number corresponds to the most famous and remarkable physical constant — “the Fine-structure constant”. This constant is a small dimensionless quantity, which is the same in any system of units and is equal to the product of the Planck constant by the speed of light, divided by the square of the electron charge. It is believed that this constant determines the relative strength of the electromagnetic interaction.
The fine structure constant is mentioned when it comes to the rationality of construction of our world. If it were slightly different, then our world would change so much that the emergence of life in it would become impossible. So, fundamental physical constants were chosen to create conditions adequate for life? This opinion is called the “Anthropic principle”: we see the Universe in such a way, because only in such a Universe could exist an observer. Or the fundamental constants have developed this way completely by accident?
In the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul predicts the death of Rome “from the finger of God”:
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.17
Rome died being unable to repel the Visigoths, in fact, semi-savage tribes, “barbarians”. This is how the medieval period of history ended and the Christian, medieval period began. Edward Gibbon in his work “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” made the assumption that the main reason for the death of the ancient empire was the development of Christianity, which discredited all the values of Roman society. This completed the prophecy of St. Paul. Reason for the fall of Roman Empire, which threw material development of human civilization for a thousand years is still not fully understood, but it is quite appropriate to raise the question about determinism of this event.
“Bela” and “Maxim Maksimovich”.
Historically, a hundred years after the fall of Rome, a new religious movement, Islam, arose and began to develop in the vast Arabian deserts. Telling Maxim Maksimych about himself, Pechorin remarks:
the love of a savage is little better than that of your lady of quality, the barbaric ignorance and simplicity of the one weary you as much as the coquetry of the other. I am not saying that I do not love her still; I am grateful to her for a few fairly sweet moments; I would give my life for her—only I am bored with her…
Often the name “Bella” is used to refer to Jewish women. It is a simple adaptation of the Hebrew female name Beile, “beautiful” in Yiddish. If Talmudic Judaism and Islam were created by the same IE as Christianity, how much fun was it for him to do?
Pechorin’s last appearance in the novel is rather sad. He is shown completely disillusioned with life, and simply throws away all his diaries, which for a long time he trusted with all his innermost feelings. Maxim Maksimovich, being angry with him for his coldness, promised to make cartridges out of them. As a result, Pechorin’s diaries end up in the hands of a wandering chronicler, who decides to publish them, putting his name under them. And here I would like to recall the dedication of the novel “Eugene Onegin” in the context of my article “Homology in Russian Classical Literature”:
But so be it. With partial hand
take this collection of pied chapters:
half droll, half sad,
the careless fruit of my amusements,
insomnias, light inspirations,
unripe and withered years,
the intellect’s cold observations,
and the heart’s sorrowful remarks.
Pechorin and the birth of a new life.
No new life can arise from scratch. Even ordinary unicellular bacteria multiply by dividing the cell in two. The mammalian organism has developed a mechanism of very strict protection of the embryo from the maternal organism. Mother’s immune system must be merciless to any antigen, including the overactive embryo cells striving for life and reproduction. If something completely new and different appears in the environment of a developed organism, then it is quite possible to understand the indifference that turns into hostility of organism to the stranger. Uncontrollably proliferating stem cells can cause deadly cancer. The fetus can only communicate with the mother through the interface of placenta. The development of a new religion or teaching is like the birth of a new organism. And if, for example, Protestantism is a type of vegetative reproduction, when a new organism arises from the bud of Christianity, then the emergence of Christianity itself is more reminiscent of the birth from a seed, “like from a mustard seed”. I would call Judea the father of Christianity, and Egypt the mother.
And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. 18
The main motive of all Lermontov’s work is the dramatic survival or death of an individual in an indifferent or hostile world. This is what Lermontov’s poem “The Death of a Poet”, dedicated to A.S. Pushkin. The poem “Three Palm Trees” shows what can happen when two different worlds meet. Palm trees keep in their shade a source that springs from the barren land. This is not enough for them, and they ask god for help to please the benevolent gaze of people. At their request, God sends a trade caravan, but the caravan has its own life and interests in life. People without a twinge of conscience burn palm trees for small warm and caravan continues its regular path. If Pushkin constantly lived in the countryside, served only his brilliant inspiration and never came into contact with an indifferent society, then he definitely would have lived much longer.
A similar theme is raised by Lermontov’s poem “The Dying Gladiator”, based on Byron’s “Charles Harold”.
Everyone awaits for his return, with glory and the spoils,
In vain — he fell like wild beast — pathetic slave,
For the insensitive crowd — you’re a minute of amusement…
Forgive me, lewd Rome, forgive me, oh Motherland…
In the poem “Mtsyri” a child who grew up among Muslim traditions and mountain freedom ends up in a Christian monastery, where they try to make out of him a novice. Obviously, this can only lead to tragedy — the boy would rather die than become a monk. However, overcoming such difficulties is the only way to create something fundamentally new. This is how one out of tens of thousands sperm cells achieves success on the path to egg fertilization. On the path of self-affirmation, the idea must find a way to survive in an indifferent or hostile environment and find ways for itself to develop and grow stronger.
You walked, forgetting fatigue and pain,
Forgetting this and that.
You saw a magic fire in the distance,
That nobody has seen.
And often they spat after you,
They shouted that you will perish,
But what is leisure advice for you,
You just believed and walked to the light —
And I know that you will make it.19
Pechorin did not choose the road and was always out of work. The benevolence of Maksim Maksimych for Pechorin is nothing more than indifference — the staff captain is not able to understand even a tiny bit of what Pechorin lives. But, quite adequate restrained attitude of Grigory to Maxim Maksimych, captain sees almost as an insult to his best feelings.
Pechorin actually does not belong to the world in which he lives, but he has no other “worlds”, and if you ask yourself what could have saved Pechorin from mortal boredom, then it’s to create a new “world”. Neither the world should help Pechorin, nor he should help the world, but Pechorin must become a separate and independent world. Then he would have a purpose for life. Suppose the same palms are born again near the same spring — how shall they find faith on the earth?
- Quran 5:5↩
- Here and below translation of “A Hero of Time” into English by J. H. Wisdom & Marr Murray↩
- Performed by “Mashina Vremeni” group known also as “Time Machine” in English music sources↩
- Sergey Yesenin “Dissuaded the Golden Grove”↩
- Sergey Yesenin. “The Black Man”.↩
- Lermontov “How often, surrounded by a motley crowd”. Early 1840↩
- “Masks”. Performed by “Mashina Vremeni” group↩
- V. Vysotsky “Chances”, “Sluchai” in Russian↩
- “Barrier”. Performed by “Mashina Vremeni” group↩
- “Complete calm”. Performed by “Mashina Vremeni” group↩
- “Barrier”. Performed by “Mashina Vremeni” group↩
- Here and below translation of “The Karamszov Brothers” into English by Constance Garnett↩
- Here and below translation of “Eugene Onegin” by Vladimir Nabokov↩
- In German: Erinnerungen an die Zukunft based on Erich von Däniken’s book “Chariots of the Gods”↩
- Andrey Makarevich “Churches have been reopened again”, disk “At the Pawnshop”↩
- Luke 14:21 Here and below King James Bible↩
- Romans 12:19↩
- Luke 5:37↩
- Andrey Makarevich. “Everyone has a right”. Performed by Mashina Vremeni group.↩