A Simple February Passage

“What other men have thought is valuable, but its chief value is, not to save us from the labor of thinking, but to enable us to think the better for ourselves.”

From “The Golden Way to the Highest Attainments” by Rev J.H Potts D.D, 1889

Some Mainers (aka “snowbirds”) go to Florida to escape February (and the couple of months prior and after) during their down time. I keep it local and go to the couch! February is a time when I do more reading. The cozy simplicity of snuggling under a wool throw with a cup of tea and good book takes the edge off of one of my least favorite months. I’m actually starting to grow fond of this time of year. The more I accept February as it is instead of feeling righteous indignation in response to things like the short daylight, icy public walkways, the lonely glossy white landscape outside my window that’s devoid of friendly furry or feathered visitors, the more agreeable it is/I am! In fact I often think a good test of true inner joy is not needing summery days to have a sunny disposition.

I just finished “Poor Folk” by Dostoyevsky, his first novel. Have any of you read it? I was moved by the severe poverty and realities of a feudal system in 19th century Russia which was detailed in the correspondence between two people with tragic circumstances. I found myself being angry with some of their “choices” that were heavily influenced by having no viable options, but it also increased my gratitude and appreciation for all that I have. A temporary winter is much nicer than incessant fog, piercing drizzle and cold with coughs that kill which was painfully described in the book.

I’ve just begun “The Idiot”, also by Dostoyevsky.

The “escapism” of reading classic literary fiction feels more like a very thrifty yet rich cultural vacation because it challenges my 2019 worldview and self-opinion. It’s also a marvel to experience beautiful writing originally published in another language.

7 thoughts on “A Simple February Passage

  1. What a great attitude! Thank you for the reminder to be accepting and grateful for every season. I guess when I think about it, enjoying more of winter doesn’t make spring any less sweeter when it arrives!

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  2. I listen to a Rabbi who said the Jews have a day of mourning for when the Bible was translated out of Hebrew. The subtle view points of the people translating always come through.
    He said the same is true for Dostoyevsky, and you have to be careful which translations you read.
    Isn’t that an interesting thought?

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    1. It’s true.

      In the mornings Wayne reads aloud from the New American Bible St Joseph Edition and I read the same passages aloud afterward from King James, Switching even one word changes the meaning in important ways which is why we want to have more than one translation.

      As for Dostoyevsky I know it will never be the same, but did research on which translations are truest before I selected my copies.


  3. Dreams from the LORD 2007-2010
    16 August 2010

    An excerpt from The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey:

    Pages 140-142: “A.N. Wilson, a biographer of Tolstoy, remarks that Tolstoy suffered from a ‘fundamental theological inability to understand the Incarnation. His religion was ultimately a thing of Law rather than of Grace, a scheme for human betterment rather than a vision of God penetrating a fallen world.’ With crystalline clarity Tolstoy could see his own inadequacy in the light of God’s Ideal. But he could not take the further step of trusting God’s grace to overcome that inadequacy.

    “Shortly after reading Tolstoy I discovered his countryman Fyodor Dostoyevsky. These two, the most famous and accomplished of all Russian writers, lived and worked during the same period of history. Oddly, they never met, and perhaps it was just as well—they were opposites in every way. Where Tolstoy wrote bright, sunny novels, Dostoyevsky wrote dark and brooding ones. Where Tolstoy worked out ascetic schemes for self-improvement, Dostoyevsky periodically squandered his health and fortune on alcohol and gambling. Dostoyevsky got many things wrong, but he got one thing right: His novels communicate grace and forgiveness with a Tolstoyan force.

    “Early in his life, Dostoyevsky underwent a virtual resurrection. He had been arrested for belonging to a group judged treasonous by Tsar Nicholas I, who, to impress upon the young parlor radicals the gravity of their errors, sentenced them to death and staged a mock execution. The conspirators were dressed in white death gowns and led to a public square where a firing squad awaited them. Blindfolded, robed in white burial shrouds, hands bound tightly behind them, they were paraded before a gawking crowd and then tied to posts. At the very last instant, as the order, ‘Ready, aim!’ was heard and rifles were cocked and lifted upward, a horseman galloped up with a pre-arranged message from the tsar: he would mercifully commute their sentence to hard labor.

    “Dostoyevsky never recovered from this experience. He had peered into the jaws of death, and from that moment life became for him precious beyond all calculation….

    Read the rest:

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