Skip to main content

Chekhov's Russia

"Русскому человеку в высшей степени свойственен 
возвышенный образ мыслей, 
но скажите, почему в жизни он хватает так невысоко? Почему?"

"The Russian person is extremely gifted at thinking on a sublime level, 
but, tell me, why do we aim so low in real life? Why?"

Chekhov penned this words in his work "Three Sisters" in 1900.  Although over a century old, I cannot better express this very thought provoking Russian paradox today.  Russians are some of the deepest, most philosophically minded, intelligent, and compelling people I know.  Yet, stepping off a plane and taking in one's first glimpse of the mother land, one would hardly guess that that could be so.  There is such a disparity here between the world of the mind and the world of the senses.  Obviously this is not a new trend, nor a product of the Soviet era, it has been this way at least the past one hundred years.  How and why this is the case, though, remains somewhat of a mystery, seemingly ingrained the genetic make-up of the people.   

A professor once told me that the best three countries for literature are Russia, France, and Britain.  After my initial arrival in Russia (almost 10 years ago,) I remember my surprise and amazement at finding pieces of these legendary characters, Roskolnikov, Vronsky, Levin, Ivan Karamazov, Bulgakov's Pilate, etc., etc., etc., alive within my new Russian friends.  It felt like meeting little modern Dostoevskies all over the place!  I began then to wonder if it wasn't the authors that made these countries so remarkable in literature, but actually the people themselves.  Dostoevsky "simply" put the dialogue of his time into text.  It's a dialogue that continues today in the same very profound and interesting way.  What Chekhov has noticed nearly 100 years ago remains true of his people today (self-fulfilling prophecy or just life in Russia?)  The capacity for this sublime level of thought has not dwindled over time.  At the same time, the standard of living has not dramatically improved either, or at least the desire for such.  Russians are the same Russians of which Chekhov and Dostoevsky wrote so many years ago.  Chekhov's paradox continues to knock on the decrepit and deteriorating concrete door.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Spiritual Tourism 101

Today Anna and I joined our visiting friends from Eastern Washington on a trip to Christ the Savior Cathedral downtown. Often, when we host visitors, we try to resist the temptation to tell them everything we think we know about the people and places around them. From our own experience, we've learned that one of the greatest joys of travel involves coming into contact with a new culture, new ideas, and new traditions, and learning about those things first hand from the people who live there - that is what really creates a lasting impression and connection with any new place and people. 
We've created a spiritual tourism guide for Moscow which embraces this concept based on the Field Observation Process (FOP) featuring first hand interaction with the places and traditions of Russia, all within the context of building new friendships with the people that live here. The first trip, Spiritual Tourism 101, involves two of Russia's most spiritual locations: Christ the Savior Cat…

Maple Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Don't like brussel sprouts? No worries, these don't taste a thing like them! Our children asked for second (and third) helpings and as Dan remarked, they easily outshone everything else on the table. We took them to our Thanksgiving dinner as well as a Christmas party as they travel and reheat surprisingly well and complemented those more traditional dishes.

Ingredients:
2 slices bacon
1 lb. brussel sprouts (thawed if frozen) sliced in half
1/2 an onion sliced into thin loops
Salt and pepper to season
3 TB maple syrup 3 TB apple cider vinegar *optional
1/4 cup raisins *optional

Directions:
If using raisins, put them in a cup with the apple cider vinegar and set aside. (Raisins can soak over night for brighter flavor.)

In a cast iron skillet, cook 2 slices of bacon over medium heat. Remove bacon from pan to crumble once cool.

Using the hot bacon grease, add brussel sprouts and onion slices to the skillet and immediately season with salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium low if…

Winter Bible Conference 2017

Peter was hunched up against the window of the high-speed train to Saint Petersburg, trying desperately to see how the train rolled along the rails when we got the message: "the health department has closed the location for the conference, please pray."
Many of the 115 students and staff from 17 cities across Russia were already en route, like us, to our annual Winter Bible Conference when this unexpected news hit. We arrived in St. Pete, shaking the softly falling snow from our luggage and hats, not fully knowing what to think or expect for this year's conference. However, while we were flying across Russia's rails, praying for help and provision, staff in St. Pete had hit the ground searching for a new location to fit our demographic and budget - not an easy task. In the end, we got our answer and miraculously nobody was lost in the shuffle.


The opening meeting emerged from non-stop logistical, physical, and relational chaos and met an audience surprisingly humble…