Tuesday, March 06, 2007

And Now For A Word From Tolstoy

One of the books I am currently reading is the novel, Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy. Like Proust, Tolstoy sprinkles the story with observations about life and humans. I found the following quote from my bathroom reading (I have different books in different places -- a car book, a family room book, and a bathroom book) particularly meaningful this morning:
"One of the commonest and most generally accepted delusions is that every man can be qualified in some particular way -- said to be kind, wicked, stupid, energetic, apathetic and so on. People are not like that. We may say of a man that he is more often kind than cruel, more often wise than stupid, more often energetic than apathetic or vice versa; but it could never be true to say of one man that he is kind or wise, and of another that he is wicked or stupid. Yet we are always classifying mankind in this way. And it is wrong. Human beings are like rivers: the water is one and the same in all of them but every river is narrow in some places, flows swifter in others; here it is broad, there still, or clear, or cold, or muddy or warm. It is the same with men. Every man bears within him the germs of every human quality, and now manifests one, now another, and frequently is quite unlike himself, while still remaining the same man. In some people the volteface (turnabout) is particularly abrupt."

To which I can only say, "Yeah, Leo, but you didn't know George W. Bush."


Jessie said...

Heh... good thing my coffee's not done brewing... coulda been messy, since I didn't see that guffaw coming. ;-)

sarala said...

I have a vague sense that I read Resurrection a century or two ago and used that exact quote in a book report. (College?)
It is a lovely, meaningful quote.
As to W. I hate him too but I agree with Tolstoy. There has to be a good molecule in there somewhere. Too bad he wasn't born to be just an ordinary Joe.

fez said...

That's the kind of quote that really hits you where you live, if you are (like me) a person too prone to categorizing people. "Resurrection" has sat on my shelf for years, unread. Maybe someday...