Wisdom of Life

Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Life of Man — The Wisdom Between Love & Hell

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

“Life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we refuse to see it.”

“Love life more than the meaning of it.”

I have a longing for life, and I go on living in spite of logic. Though I may not believe in the order of the universe, yet I love the sticky little leaves as they open in spring. I love the blue sky, I love some people, whom one loves you know sometimes without knowing why. I love some great deeds done by men, though I’ve long ceased perhaps to have faith in them, yet from old habit one’s heart prizes them. … I love the sticky leaves in spring, the blue sky — that’s all it is. It’s not a matter of intellect or logic, it’s loving with one’s inside, with one’s stomach.

It’s life that matters, nothing but life—the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself, at all.

Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point 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.

“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”

Strive to love your neighbour actively and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbour, then you will believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. This has been tried. This is certain.

Love is a teacher, but one must know how to acquire it, for it is difficult to acquire, it is dearly bought, by long work over a long time, for one ought to love not for a chance moment but for all time. Anyone, even a wicked man, can love by chance.

Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that, once and for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvelously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.

To love someone means to see them as God intended them. Love is such a priceless treasure that you can buy the whole world with it, and redeem not only your own but other people’s sins. Go, and do not be afraid.

“For a woman, all resurrection, all salvation, from whatever perdition, lies in love; in fact, it is her only way to it.”

If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you. If you want to overcome the whole world, overcome yourself. Be the sun and all will see you!

Man is a mystery. It needs to be unravelled, and if you spend your whole life unravelling it, don’t say that you’ve wasted time. I am studying that mystery because I want to be a human being. It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them — the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas. It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently. It seems, in fact, as though the second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing, but the habits he has accumulated during the first half.

To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s. Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most. Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid. It is better to be unhappy and know the worst, than to be happy in a fool’s paradise.

I love mankind, but I find to my amazement that the more I love mankind as a whole, the less I love man in particular. Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him. People speak sometimes about the “bestial” cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel. I think the devil doesn’t exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness.

“You sensed that you should be following a different path, a more ambitious one, you felt that you were destined for other things but you had no idea how to achieve them and in your misery you began to hate everything around you.”

Humanity can live without science, it can live without bread, but it cannot live without beauty. Without beauty, there would be nothing left to do in this life. Here the secret lies. Here lies the entire story. The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.

Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth. The darker the night, the brighter the stars. The deeper the grief, the closer is God! With love one can live even without happiness. Even in sorrow life is sweet; life is sweet, however one lives.

Be not forgetful of prayer. Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage, and you will understand that prayer is an education. Obedience, fasting, and prayer are laughed at, yet only through them lies the way to real true freedom. I cut off my superfluous and unnecessary desires, I subdue my proud and wanton will and chastise it with obedience, and with God’s help I attain freedom of spirit and with it spiritual joy. Full freedom will come only when it makes no difference whether to live or not to live. That’s the goal for everyone.

Happiness does not lie in happiness, but in the achievement of it. A single day is sufficient for a man to discover what happiness is. Man only likes to count his troubles; he doesn’t calculate his happiness. The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness. This is my last message to you: in sorrow, seek happiness. Men are made for happiness, and he who is completely happy has the right to say to himself, “I am doing God’s will on earth.”

We’re always thinking of eternity as an idea that cannot be understood, something immense. But why must it be? What if, instead of all this, you suddenly find just a little room there, something like a village bath-house, grimy, and spiders in every corner, and that’s all eternity is. Sometimes, you know, I can’t help feeling that that’s what it is.

“I can see the sun, but even if I cannot see the sun, I know that it exists. And to know that the sun is there — that is living.”

“Compassion is the chief law of human existence.”

“Beauty will save the world.”

***

~Fyodor Dostoevsky was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, and journalist. Dostoevsky’s literary works explore the human condition in the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmospheres of 19th-century Russia, and engage with a variety of philosophical and religious themes.

Excerpts from Dostoevsky’s novels.

Excellence Reporter 2022

Categories: Wisdom of Life

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