Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dr. Zhivago


Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)
I just finished Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago. Here are some of my favorite parts:
Is there anything in the world that merits faithfulness? Such things are very few. I think we must be faithful to immortality, that other, slightly stronger name for life. We must keep faith in immortality, we must be faithful to Christ! (p. 8) 
And what is history? It is the setting in motion of centuries of work at the gradual unriddling of death and its eventual overcoming. (p. 9) 
And, making an exception for his father and mother, Misha gradually became filled with scorn for adults, who had cooked a pudding they were unable to eat. He was convinced that when he grew up, he would untangle it all. (p. 13) 
But the point is precisely this, that for centuries man has been raised above the animals and borne aloft not by the rod, but by music: the irresistibility of the unarmed truth, the attraction of its example. It has been considered up to now that the most important thing in the Gospels is the moral pronouncements and rules, but for me the main thing is that Christ speaks in parables from daily life, clarifying the truth with the light of everyday things. At the basis of this lies the thought that communion among mortals is immortal and that life is symbolic because it is meaningful.” (p. 46) 
Consciousness is poison, a means of self-poisoning for the subject who applies it to himself. Consciousness is a light directed outwards, consciousness lights the way before us so that we don’t stumble. Consciousness is the lit headlights at the front of a moving locomotive. Turn their light inwards and there will be a catastrophe. (p. 77) 
In that new way of existence and new form of communion, conceived in the heart and known as the Kingdom of God, there are no peoples, there are persons. (p. 142) 
isolated happiness is not happiness (p. 203) 
everything truly great is without beginning, like the universe. It does not emerge, but is suddenly there, as if it always existed or fell from the sky. (p. 211) 
He realized that he was a pygmy before the monstrous hulk of the future. (p. 213)
I think that we’ll gain nothing by violence. People must be drawn to the good by the good. (p. 309) 
“It has always seemed to me that every conception is immaculate, that this dogma concerning the Mother of God expresses the general idea of motherhood. (p. 331) 
“Only the ordinary is fantastic, once the hand of genius touches it. (p. 336) 
Man is born to live, not to prepare for life. And life itself, the phenomenon of life, the gift of life, is so thrillingly serious! Why then substitute for it a childish harlequinade of immature inventions. (p. 351) 
Oh, how sweet it is to exist! How sweet to live in the world and to love life! Oh, how one always longs to say thank you to life itself, to existence itself, to say it right in their faces! (p. 462) 
“Children are unconstrainedly sincere and not ashamed of the truth, while we, from fear of seeming backward, are ready to betray what’s most dear, to praise the repulsive, and to say yes to the incomprehensible.” (p. 511) 
“You understand, we’re in different positions. Wings were given you so as to fly beyond the clouds, and to me, a woman, so as to press myself to the ground and shield my fledgling from danger.” (p. 513) 
The grief in his soul sharpened Yuri Andreevich’s perceptions. He grasped everything with tenfold distinctness. (p. 533) 
When she came into a room, it was as if a window was thrown open, the room was filled with light and air.” (p. 546) 
A constant, systematic dissembling is required of the vast majority of us. It’s impossible, without its affecting your health, to show yourself day after day contrary to what you feel, to lay yourself out for what you don’t love, to rejoice over what brings you misfortune. Our nervous system is not an empty sound, not a fiction. It’s a physical body made up of fibers. Our soul takes up room in space and sits inside us like the teeth in our mouth. It cannot be endlessly violated with impunity. (p. 570) 
Everything’s getting better. I have an incredible, passionate desire to live, and to live means always to push forward, towards higher things, towards perfection, and to achieve it. (p. 571) 
The kingdom of plants so easily offers itself as the nearest neighbor to the kingdom of death. Here, in the earth’s greenery, among the trees of the cemetery, amidst the sprouting flowers rising up from the beds, are perhaps concentrated the mysteries of transformation and the riddles of life that we puzzle over. Mary did not at first recognize Jesus coming from the tomb and took him for the gardener walking in the cemetery. (“She, supposing him to be the gardener …”) (p. 582) 
What a frightening thing life is, right? (p. 587) 
Never, in any circumstances, must you despair. To hope and to act is our duty in misfortune. Inactive despair is a forgetting and failure of duty. (p. 588) 
the war came as a cleansing storm, a gust of fresh air, a breath of deliverance. (p. 598) 
courage is the root of beauty,
And that’s what draws us to each other. (p. 626) 
Ease with a woman’s last caress
The bitterness of my fatal hour. (p. 632) 
But a miracle is a miracle, and a miracle is God.
When we’re perturbed, in the midst of our disorder,
It overtakes us on the instant, unawares. (p. 643) 
the secret stream of suffering
Can lend warmth to the chill of being. (p. 644) 
When I rest your feet, Jesus,
Upon my knees, it may be
That I am learning to embrace
The four-square beam of the cross
And, feeling faint, strain towards your body,
Preparing you for burial. (p. 647) 
Peter rushed the cutthroats with his sword
And lopped off the ear of one.
He hears: “Disputes can never be resolved with iron. Put your sword back in its place, man. (p. 650)

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