The World Ends With You

[ 6 ] January 30, AD 2012 |

A lot of you may have read Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, which is the author’s last and greatest novel, and you may have found it memorable enough to influence your very thoughts and actions.

It is not only a fictional work, but a philosophical one as well. We may have read Ivan Karamazov’s parable, The Grand Inquisitor, which is about an ageing cardinal meeting Christ at the height of the Spanish Inquisition. The questions this parable entails relate to the problem of evil and the freedom to reject or accept Christ. This provocative story is well known.

However, many seem to neglect the part of the book, which contains the life and homilies of Elder Zosima*, compiled by Ivan’s brother, Alexei. They are every bit as inspiring as they are philosophical—Dostoyevsky’s way of contrasting with Ivan’s cold-blooded beliefs.

Virtue has to be the key topic in the Elder’s homilies, and how we are to retain them in the midst of all the suffering, again, contrary to what Ivan spoke of in the previous part.

Out of the three sons of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, it was Alexei or Alyosha who did not plunge into tragedy, unlike his other two brothers, Dimitri and Ivan—the former, damaged by the latter’s influence on Smerdyakov. That’s because young Alyosha kept his virtue and his faith—at least that’s how Dostoyevsky made it appear.

What would the world be if we were to throw away all our virtues and our sense of morality? Would the world be a better place or would it be more progressive? It is often a question asked by believers and nonbelievers alike, if people were to scrap objective morality and make everything lawful.

A certain reflection which I got from the story is that the sins of others would have to be considered our sins as well, because we were not good enough to show them how things are done, or because we haven’t done anything at all. Didn’t it ever occur to us how the world would fall apart if we gave up on what is moral?

More importantly, would the world be the same if we simply stopped feeling a sort of sense of responsibility for others?

We may be aware—however we might perceive this—that we hold the world in our hands and we mould it according to how Christ instructed us and to the freedom which He had also granted. God does have a purpose for each and every one of us, but part of that is to help others know what their purpose is in order for them to be closer to Him.

In a society where God has been somewhat forgotten, we could only think of giving up as we assume that there is no longer any hope left for a world which no longer believes. But didn’t it ever occur to us that it is also our fault because we’ve failed to act the way a Christian should act? Might it not also be our failure, since our friends didn’t know about Christ even when we had the opportunity to tell them and show them?

Wouldn’t we be expecting the end of the world and it going to hell if, as what is written in Dostoyevsky’s book, we are no longer able to love? Wouldn’t we be the cause of the misery of others if such were the case?

Through our passions, we forget that though we are free, we also have a responsibility—to accept the “burden” of ethical altruism and to embrace forgiveness and acknowledging our sins before those whom we love and those whom we do not know.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (said to be a devout Russian Orthodox), through the fictional Elder Zosima, taught us to be responsible for our neighbors’ sins and to maintain our virtue even though things may seem hopeless for us, since God also shared to us the honor of having the world in our hands—hence we thank Him by following His commands according to our very discretion.

Again, I raise the question: What would the world become if we rejected this responsibility to our neighbors and live in a world of sin? Well, the world would eventually end with us.

*Elder Zosima’s character was based on a Russian Orthodox saint, Tikhon of Zadonsk.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/jaredavatar-2-e1317737695228.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Jared Combista is twenty-one and comes from the Philippines. He writes about the Church, touching on the topic of distributism although he still considers himself a student and not a scholar on the economic philosophy. He writes for Verum Nocet, as well as his personal blog, The Secular Catholic. He also plays music and he has no idea how that has to do with anything.[/author_info] [/author]

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Category: Columnists, Life, Religion

About the Author ()

Iconoclast, interested in economics, history, philosophy, Catholicism and a whole lot of other stuff.
  • Tristen

    So true! We all need this reminder. Thanks for posting!

  • HG

    My question is why was the elder’s body corrupted after death? Was he a fraud?

  • Ink and Quill

    How exciting– a post all about The Brothers Karamazov titled “The World Ends With You,” haha! Quite seriously, thank you so much for this thought-provoking read on a topic so necessary to us today.

    I have always wondered why Ivan’s poem, the Grand Inquisitor, seems to be known so well as the novel’s “philosophical gem”– even seeing independent publication– while Father Zosima’s “reply” to it goes altogether overlooked. Of course, my first read of The Brothers Karamazov was with an abridged edition which excluded both. Imagine that, the thematic core of the novel!

    As for taking responsibility for the sins of the world– to hold oneself as “guilty of all before all”– responsible for the sins of all the world, and to repent accordingly as “first among sinners” itself has ties to a thread running through Orthodox spirituality, I think. I believe the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom even contains a prayer that mentions something to that effect.

  • Ink and Quill

    That was Quill, by the way. Sorry, I’m always forgetting to identify myself!

    -Q

  • http://secularcatholic.blogspot.com/ Jared Dale Combista

    I think the corruption of Elder Zosima’s body was symbolic of Alyosha’s faith being put to a test, like what Rakitin and Grushenka did to him. But I can’t really say–that one’s shrouded in mystery.

  • http://virtuouspla.net/ Nathaniel Gotcher

    Haven’t read it, unfortunately in any edition. But this reminds me of the trends in dystopian novels of the 20th C.: The loss of love, innocence and tragedy seemingly without redemption. It speaks of the post christian world, really. A world without salvation.