Why I read . . . and now re-read Dostoyevsky
According to Marc Slonim, who wrote the Introduction to Constance Garnett's translation of The Brother's Karamazov, "the Holy Elder Ambrose," depicted above, "was definitely the model of Father Zossima," and it was this Ambrose whom Dostoyevsky -- accompanied by the philosopher Vladimir Solovyov -- "had gone . . . to the Optina Monastery to meet" (Dostoyevsky, Brothers Karamazov (New York: Random House, 1950), p. xiii). Father Zossima has some insightful words about resentment that are relevant not only for my interest in the 'resentful' character of Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice but also for the resentment that I recently encountered on this blog.
I am, of course, no stranger to the experience of resentment within myself, though I hope that I have overcome most of that, and I recall not only cases of 'justifiable' resentment but also (and even more so) cases of unjustifiable resentment. At times, I believe, we find that we wish to take offense . . . though I think that this happens more often when we are young and passionate, before the passage of years has taught us to entertain more suspicions about our own precious 'causes'. We carry a chip on our shoulder -- sometimes the right, sometimes the left -- and not merely wait but positively expect, even hope, yes actually actively seek, for someone to knock it off. We nurture a base and baseless resentment that we hope to help grow.
In Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamzov, the insightful and saintly Father Zossima speaks to those who resent without cause:
"Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love . . . . The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than anyone. You know it is sometimes very pleasant to take offence, isn't it? A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill -- he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offence, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it, and so pass to genuine vindictiveness." (Dostoyevsky, Brothers Karamazov, p. 48)How true, that a "man may know that nobody has insulted him, . . . yet he will be the first to take offence . . . and so pass to genuine vindictiveness." Such a man will gesture toward equanimity, extoll his own reasonability, praise himself and his own patience to the heavens, and fall into an outraged indignation at the mildest challenge to his opinions, expressing his vindictive outrage through harsh but ultimately ineffectual insults of his own.
But perhaps we learn, some of us, from experience . . . the best teacher.