My grandfather and I are standing on the porch, ready for our daily 30 minutes of connection.
He stops and listens to the birds. “It is so beautiful here, so peaceful. I feel so happy to just stand here with you and listen. To feel the breeze on my skin, the sun on my face, to hear the songs of the birds. Just quiet. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go… I loved that back home. Sitting in the yard with my wife, your grandmother, watching our children run around. I loved working in my office and seeing your dad play with his cars on the carpet. I loved being with my family… It’s all I ever wanted…”
Tears drop down his eyes.
“You live in the world I dreamed of… Peaceful, safe, welcoming… I never wanted to be a hero. I much rather had lived a quiet life, full of love, laughter, togetherness. Much like the hobbits in Lord of the Rings… But we don’t chose the times we live in, we only chose how to respond to them…”
Tears roll down his cheeks.
“It is like you clearing up the poison ivy. Of course, you much rather read a book, or go for a hike, or relax in the sun. But that’s not your choice. Your choice is to eradicate it now or let it grow till it covers your grounds and blocks your path. I knew that if we didn’t stand up against the Nazi’s now, the consequences would be far worse, for far more people, than any risk I took individually. I didn’t chose my time, I only chose how to respond. I wished I had never had to make that decision.”
He starts sobbing.
“I wished I had seen your dad graduate, marry your mom, have her kids, be promoted at work… I wished I could have held you in my arms, your siblings, your cousins… I wished I had lived to be old enough to witness your dad grow into the source of support he is, for your mom, for you and your brothers and sisters, for his siblings, for his family-in-law… Gosh, he is a rock… An incredible son… An amazing man…”
“I never chose the time I lived in, only my response… You honor me most by enjoying and appreciating the world I tried to contribute to.”
We sit together, quietly. Then his sobbing calms down.
“Your times are different. And it is your choice how to respond to them. I hope you bring your delight and gratitude into your response.”
You want help to respond to the time you live in? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session.
F. Dostoevsky Русский: Фёдор Михайлович Достоевский Suomi: Fjodor Mihailovitš Dostojevski (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Saturday was my day off. It is the day of the week that I have designated for “me” time. It is the day without schedule, without ‘have to’, without commitments. It is the day that I only do what I want.
Usually I love these days. I have time to read books, call friends, hang out with my husband. I play “Jesu, joy of men’s desire” over and over again. I go for long walks in the woods. It is my weekly mini-retreat.
Last Saturday I hated it. It was horrible.
Dostoyevsky writes about the burden of freedom and choice in the Brothers Karamazov. One of the three brothers, Ivan, tells his younger brother Alyosha the tale of Jesus and the Great Inquisitor.
Jesus returns to Sevilla, during the time of the great Inquisition. He shares His compassion, He listens, talks, helps and heals. People all over follow Him.
At the peak of His ‘popularity’ He is put in prison. He is sentenced to death by burning. The Great Inquisitor visits Him the night before His execution. He offers Him life in return for His willingness to perform a miracle, forsake God, and accept power over the kingdoms of the world. Jesus refuses.
I have always loved this story. I feel compassion in how Dostoyevsky writes about both.
The Great Inquisitor cares deeply for ‘his’ people. He blames Jesus for offering freedom. In this freedom people have nothing to hold on to, nothing to hide behind, no excuses for their choices. They are the only ones responsible for their thoughts, speech and actions. And for the results they create. If they fail, that’s their responsibility. If they succeed, that’s their responsibility. Jesus takes away their scapegoat, and the people are left naked in their vulnerability of ambiguous conscience.
The Great Inquisitor claims that he offers the people a more compassionate alternative. He presents himself as the authority and judge of good and evil. He tells the people how to live. As a result people are free from the burden of choosing. They are free from second guessing, doubts, and regrets. Within his constraints, they can live happily ever after.
In return, the Great Inquisitor carries the burden of choosing, and accepting responsibility and accountability for his choices. He thinks that better than Jesus’s alternative of letting people make their own choices and suffer from regret, doubt, self-blame and insecurity.
As I sit on the couch, wondering if I should participate in the teleconference, or not, if I should go to the Hanukkah celebration, or not, as I end up just sitting, I am reminded of Dostoyevsky‘s parable. I feel consoled. Making choices is tough. Dostoyevsky says so.