Saints and Solzhenitsyn

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“[Saint Anthony] said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

I have just celebrated my birthday, November 1, All Saints day. Shortly after awakening I gave my halo a quick polish, it sometimes gets a little tarnished as I wrestle with life’s problems. Growing up November 1 was a good day to be born, as it was a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics and Catholic schools were closed. I was guaranteed a holiday from school on my birthday, what can be better than that. So I’ve now turned 71 and still trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I envy people who can plan there life, I am not one of them. I’ve known a few saints in my life and have found them to be unremarkable people. They just go about their daily life, offering an encouraging word when needed, giving a smile to brighten someone’s day and lending a listening ear to someone in pain. May we all aspire to become saints.

 

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“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I’ve read many articles and watched YouTube videos on the Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn but never actually read the book. So as a birthday present to myself I purchased the abridged version, with a forward by Jordan Peterson, that was released November 1, 2018. The original version was a three volume text written between 1958-1968 and published in 1973. The three volume text has around 1,600 pages compared to 500 pages for the abridged version. Gulag is the term given to the soviet forced labour camp system created under Lenin ,reaching its peak during Stalin’s rule from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. I was reading reviews of the book  and would like to share one of my favourites as follows:

I’ve worked at a lot of jobs over the course of my short life. Everything from bookstore clerk, supermarket stock room, painting designs on plates, etc. Many of these jobs have brought me into contact with the public-at-large. I’ve heard a lot of complaints over the years–All of these are delivered in a tone of incredulous indignation. As if I’d failed these people on some fundamental, spiritual level and they are appalled, just appalled, that there is no Twining’s tea on the shelves. Well, whenever I’ve encountered one of these random bastards I’ve always wished I had a copy of this, the unabridged version of Solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece, handy, so I could bash them over the head with it while screaming ‘You think you’ve got problems!? Try a week in the isolation chamber covered in your own excrement! Try being randomly shot just to fill someone’s quota!’ People think they have problems. People think they know suffering. People don’t know jack.

Lets try to hang onto freedom and democracy for as long as we can. The alternative won’t be pretty.

 

 

 

 

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