Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thoughts on Tolstoy, the Bible

Yesterday, my mom and I watched The Last Station, which is a film about the end of Leo Tolstoy's life, and the difficulties that aroused between Sophia Tolstoy (his wife) and Vladamir Chertkov. Chertkov was a member of the group that called themselves the Tolstoyans. In the film, these people gathered around Tolstoy as if he were the new Christ speaking the word of God.

I've not read any Tolstoy, and this film is pretty much the extent of my learnings on Tolstoy. It's a fact I'm a little ashamed of, but someday I hope to read his work. In general I, love the Russian writers, and I'm sure I will love Tolstoy.

It occurred to me while we were watching the movie that I didn't particularly like the way that Chertkov idolized Tolstoy. Granted, the film did not portray him in a very good light. He was trying to make Tolstoy leave his works to the public domain, while Sophia wanted their children to receive it as an inheritance. Chertkov put Tolstoy above most everything else - he said that he was the most important man in all of the world, yet he pushed and shoved Tolstoy into doing what he wanted. At one point, a young woman had a mosquito on her cheek, and Tolstoy reached out to squish it. Chertkov told him that he should not have killed a living creature; that that wasn't the message their movement needed to send. Yet it was Tolstoy who has come up with the movement, who had written the words to spark it.

I'm not familiar with the movement itself, so I won't speak for or against it. But I do think that Chertkov was wrong to spend his whole life idolizing the work of another. He seemed a very intelligent man, and I believe he wrote some. But instead of taking his talent and working on his own things, he acted as Tolstoy's guard, sometimes even against Tolstoy himself.

As a child and a young writer, I idolized other writers, but learned to write my own things. Yes, I was inspired and continue to be inspired by these authors, but my work is my own. I believe that it stands alone. I understand that this may be different - that this is social reform rather than fiction, but I think the same thing stands.

Yet as I was thinking about it, I realized that we do this with Christ, with the Bible. Many of us dedicate our lives to the Word of God and to studying it. And I thought, this is not wrong, because Christ is the Son of God. But in the film, many of the people believed that Tolstoy was a prophet, who spoke directly from God as well. How can we tell?

I don't really have a conclusion to make, other than this: We follow people, their belies; we find their works inspirational. But no matter if it is Tolstoy, J.K. Rowling, or the Bible itself...we can't allow ourselves to become blinded and to forget that our ideas matter, too. I think that we have to be inspired by ourselves, as well. We have to remember to think for ourselves.

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