3. The Fullness of Life

Everything we do is in search of inner wholeness, also known as ‘happiness’. The question: ‘how to be happy?’ is almost equivalent to another question: ‘how to live in such a way that you don’t think?’ From thinking comes anxiety, fears, regrets. ‘We will make their lives an uninterrupted game’ — Plato’s promise to the inhabitants of a state ruled by philosophers means: ‘we will free them from the need to think’. Rest, laziness is a natural state of mind and feeling… But no less natural (though not for everyone living) is the happiness of movement, of thought.

It turns out that the happiness of complete dissolution in a sunbeam, a strip of light creeping along a wall, a breath of wind, the smell of distant smoke — is one extreme point. The happiness of grain in the millstones, which is both frightening and strange, because even in the millstones it does not lose its peculiarity and thinks — is another. The first is sweeter; the second is imbued with a sense of personal immortality. To two kinds of happiness correspond two kinds of religion; religion, after all, arises before the thought of God — at the thought of self. It is not ‘God is,’ but ‘I am’ at its core. The miracle of my being, the relationship of the world to my being, requires explanation. If there is me, there is also someone at the other end of the telephone wire, because they hear me?..

In our part of the world, inner fullness is more often sought in the way of mobility, enterprise, individuality than in the way of dissolution in the world. We are more familiar with the excess of strength over and above what is necessary; with irrational restlessness, which, if there are expressive means, can be channelled to higher (creative) ends. If there are none — everything can go into the search for love, adventure, if not into addiction to wine…

A person is given not even abilities first of all, but this spark of blind restlessness, which can be fuelled in different ways, most fruitfully — in the game of higher abilities. The spark of unconscious restlessness ignites these abilities if it finds them; the world sees the manifestations of the gift, but does not realise the reason for its awakening.

And at the source of what is called ‘gift’ is pure, unformed power; excess of impression, excessive vividness of response. Properties that do not make a person ‘pleasant in every way’. Though I would not advise from obnoxious character — back to giftedness. Unbearable character can be a sign of hidden unapplied forces, and may not be.

Untapped strength, restlessness, obnoxious character, experiences of sex, wine — this is not yet ‘genius,’ it is what genius can be made of given the means of expression and themes. [1] Genius is not an intrinsic property of the creator. It is, like love, located between the personality and something external, in the case in question, at the meeting point of personality and culture. There the atmosphere becomes combustible from inert, there the flame is lit.

The same applies to the imaginary connection between gift and madness. It is not the gift and madness that are connected; one is not the cause of the other at all. The spark that ignites the gift can also ignite madness. In themselves the gift and madness are opposite, because the gift is the highest stage of order.

Education imposes on this power a network of restrictions and rules. From the undivided, vague makes finely arranged, complex, self-aware. It is important that there be a surplus of ability beyond what is necessary. This excess, which distinguishes man from the beast (in which there is nothing beyond the need), is always present in us, the question is to ignite it and fruitfully limit it, to bring man into a state of contradiction with himself, to call him out of nature — to the spirit.

Hence the unexpected conclusion: all attempts to give the personality peace, the extinguishing of inner contradictions, ‘sports’ and other entertainments offered for ‘happiness’ are a way to stifle the human (the very excess of abilities) in man. Where entertainment has grown, no higher personality will grow. What kind of personality is that? The one that is conscious of itself; that responds to the external on several levels, in several registers at once; that feels the nuances of meanings rather than the simplest stimuli.

Another question is: Is this higher development necessary? Can, say, a highly developed man be a scoundrel? No doubt, he can. Although in the lists of especially dangerous scoundrels of the 20th century there are not many highly developed personalities; rather in the list of their victims. A complex personality has access to a wide range of positive pleasures, it does not need the primitive pleasures given by destruction and bullying of the neighbour.

By the way: Christian faith and cultural wealth are not mutually related phenomena. They lived side by side, but they were neither cause nor effect of one to the other. From the point of view of the Church, joy, pleasure (positive and negative), fullness of life — everything is under suspicion. When we mix Christianity and culture, especially culture in our favourite forms, we make a mistake. Clive S. Lewis is a fine writer, but in ‘Narnia’ and other works he shows not ‘Christian values’ but national, British values. Wit, humour, mercy for the weak — these are not quite of the Gospel. These are the values of a rich and complex world that has long been illuminated by the rays of the Gospel — and in which it has not been the only source of light.

Though certainly in the culture of the old world, Christianity provided themes. Without it, there would have been no Nietzsche, who did not fight Christianity so much as feed on it; there would have been no many others. But it was historical Christianity, placed in the world as one of its forces, and not the only one, that was nourishing. If you read it out of books, there will be piety (in a certain circle), there will be ritual (in a certain circle), but there will not be Pushkin or Nietzsche, who were affected by Christianity but did not grow up in its fence.

All complex cultural forms receive their meaning for a set of reasons and over time. They are all historical and unique. Restoring some complex forms (say, a Christian monarchy) will not restore the effects they had before. Ultimately, we will only restore a word, with a different meaning entirely. — I do not mean to say by this that ‘restoration’ is undesirable or impossible. On the contrary. It is desirable and maybe still possible, at least in part. Without it, there will be no culture, only technology. But it will be a restoration of the basics, not of the complex forms of the former life.

We stepped aside. My point was that it is a mistake to mix Christianity and culture. All the impulses and achievements in the world, including culture, come from the ability to want without limit, whereas Christianity fuels the fire of unwillingness. Protestantism is a bad example, as it is extremely far from the Gospel and borders (in places going over the border) on godlessness. Catholic activism is also extra-Christian (Roman) in origin. The Gospel most loudly commands not to do — as does the Socratic daemon, by the way. To justify doing, the Christian world has to turn to external sources: the Roman virtues, the doctrine of power and success as earthly shadows of future salvation, chivalry… That is why the Western world was blooming and rich, because it deviated from Christian fundamentals in a way that was pleasing to the eye and fruitful. (That is why the grafting of Westernism in Russia, made by Peter, was so powerful.) The return of these and only these foundations of the old world, separately from other foundations that contradict them, and sometimes even directly disagree with them, is in itself unfruitful.

The motto of culture is: ‘Impose a network of complex rules on the personality and create division in it; give a path to follow’. The basis of all order is the ability to desire, not to refrain from desire. Give the personality enough goals and temptations so that in the pursuit of the former and in the craving for the latter (inseparable from the struggle against them) it develops sufficient effort. Do not offer it a convent without the thought of life outside its walls. Do not offer it a pursuit of the external without balancing it with a longing for the internal. Give it a hard-to-separate unity, a field for the application of forces, and let it labour, walking on all paths except the path of less resistance.

And its path will not remain without reward: intensity and richness of life, inner fullness.

[1] That is, the confident, conscious possession of a unique inner cosmos.

Timofey Sherudilo.
From the book Twilight Time.

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