Alexandra the Great's Private Papers

December 30, 2009

The Homemaker and Solzhenhitsyn

Filed under: Eternity,Solzhenitsyn — Alexandra The Great @ 1:41 am

Some months ago while spending too much time online, I came across an article about the death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Behind on the news as usual, I did not read this article until months after the event, but because it was news to me, interest in this familiar name was aroused and I thought it time to acquaint myself with the literary giant dead though he may be. Having provided myself with an excuse to shop I immediately went to Amazon.com where I found various books by the sought after author and, not wanting to commit to three volumes, I decided on The First Circle, a short read by Russian standards.

I had previously not heard of this book but was certain that, being written by Solzhenitsyn, The First Circle would not be a waste of time. The irony here is that people who spend too much time online are already guilty of time-wasting and ought not to worry that any book could affect the same wasteful results as the internet. So with the click of a button the novel was mine and I had only to wait a small number of days before I could open its preworn (yes, used) pages and embark on another journey to a far away place where I would meet new friends, and more importantly, their author.

Some time has passed since receiving Solzhenitsyn in the mail and having finished the book months ago I am left with more impression than details. The first and heaviest impression that comes to mind is that socialism is bad. Anyone who thinks that Marx promoted a grand idea needs to read Solzhenitsyn. The First Circle was long, dark, and tragic. This is no Christian comedy. If there is such thing as a Christian tragedy, this is it. No one’s hopes are fulfilled and no one’s conflicts are resolved. In fact, at the book’s end the protagonist’s circumstances go from bad to worse with no hope of recovery.

I had hoped to meet new friends as I often do in books but found that few of the characters in this story actually trusted each other which makes them a tough group to break into. I had a much easier time befriending the Pevensie children than of warming up to one of Solzhenitsyn’s characters. But that’s how it is when a state takes the place of God and secures its people’s obedience with talons of fear. Men are created to be free and without freedom they can not have relationships as they were meant to be. Freedom provides safety which enables love and security but fear imposes cold and dreadful distance between men.

One thing that Solzhenitsyn communicated well is the resilience of men under the worst of circumstances. Men strive for a sense of normal and hope for their future (even for the next meal) whatever the darkness that surrounds them. I see this in everyone I know. Everyone strives to function normally in even the worst of disasters. We all want to believe that things are not as bad as they really are. We want to feel that relationships are healthy when they are not and we cling to the hope that if tomorrow isn’t better than today than surely the day after will be. Of ourselves we want to believe, and often do, that we are grander than advertised (that we are bigger and better than we really are). All things might be against us, our government may make laws contrary to our well-being, our relationships might be unraveling and temporal circumstances fill us with hope or despair, yet eternity is written on our hearts. That is why we always know, even if only as a nagging feeling, that there is more than this. We were meant for greatness but something has gone wrong. Some malevolent will has intervened and kept us from what we were meant to be. We can glimpse what ought to have been but the vision is immediately obscured by the fog of the temporal. The serpent still speaks.

We long for the light of eternity. We look for it in many places and find substitutes that make us feel significant, such as politics, service groups, or even Twitter. The possibilities are endless. These are only temporal but the light of eternity can be found only in God. Every person has to deal with the issue of God. Who is he? Has he spoken? Those who commit themselves to denying God existence run the terrible risk of being wrong. Dead wrong in fact.

Solzhenitsyn knew first hand the oppression of communism and the black hole of prison and he could portray them realistically, honestly. But what about those of us who are in a different sort of prison, one of our own making where darkness is called light and good is called evil, where we have lost the ability to call things by their right name? God is the only one with the power to shine light into that kind of darkness, to make that kind of communism fall, and to drive out fear with perfect love. He has placed each of us in our own place and time that we might seek him.

I suppose I did find a friend in Alexander. Not a sentimental or cheery friend, but an honest one.

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