Monday, May 16, 2011

Useless, Useless

On occasion, I fall off the face of the blogging planet. Now, is thus. For some reason I haven't had the motivation to write at all. I'll come around eventually. Actually, I had every intent of blogging this evening, but I had to write an English paper. I had one complete one written by 11 this morning, but I deleted it. Yep. The whole thing. I'm pretty hard on them. If I don't like a paper....its gone. Lol. So anyways, I had to write a whole other one, which leaves me very sick of typing and staring at the computer. Yeahhh.

So, anyways, I'm going to completely bore you. I'm going to post my paper. I'm pretty desperate for something to post, so feel free to read or skip it, whatever you like. It's about Leo Tolstoy and vanity in life and all my papers have a Biblical application, at least a little bit. It's not one of my best, but...*shrug*

“Useless, Useless”
      The bullet severs his spinal cord, paralyzing him. The man begs to see his hands one last time. Someone raises the dead-weight hands to his face. Glancing from one to the other, he says, “Useless, useless.” John Wilkes Booth utters these famous, last words when he realizes the vanity of his life. As the sun appears over the horizon, Booth passes away, sealing his reputation as the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, forever. Multitudes of people come to the end of their lives, only to find precious time wasted. King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Solomon argues that life is unsatisfying, unless lived for Jesus Christ. People long to possess a higher purpose on earth than just living and dying. Leo Tolstoy, a Russian writer pens a few short stories about the commonness and futility of life. These tales are very depressing, but each raises a popular question: how can we live our lives with purpose? Although Tolstoy does not present a direct answer to that question, he gives the reader examples of behaviors to avoid for a brighter future. His true-to-life accounts illustrate the result of misplaced values and self-gratifying wills. Tolstoy’s stories provide insight on emotional and spiritual diseases, such as greed, complacency and hatred, which start small in our hearts, but eventually bring minds and even bodies captive.
     First, greed is fatal because it is never satisfied. Leo Tolstoy’s story “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” tells the tale of a peasant, Pahom, who is never grateful for what he has. Starting out farming on rented land, Pahom goes through a cycle of constant upgrading. Each time he hears of someone with bigger and better property, Pahom grows restless and buys more land. Just when the reader thinks Pahom has finally settled down for good, he uproots his family yet again to pursue wider fields. Eventually, an Indian chief promises to give Pahom all the land he can run around before sun set. Pahom establishes a high goal – 35 cubic miles in one day. Upon achieving this with only moments to spare, Pahom dies from exhaustion. Pahom learns that greed is never quenched when it is already too late. Ecclesiastes 2:22 reads, “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?” Pahom places his worth in mere materials which cost him his family, his bliss and his life.
     Second, complacency “drains the brain”. The daily periodical, Bits and Pieces describes complacency as, “a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes and drains the brain.” In “The Death of Ivan Ilych” Tolstoy provides a frightening example of what complacency looks like. Ivan Ilych has a disease called complacency. He lives his life enjoying simple pleasures. Ivan develops an unremitting habit of playing bridge, cards and working incessantly. He marries a woman he does not really love because she is attractive, proper and brings him pleasure. On his premature deathbed, Ivan evokes his existence and recognizes his lost potential and wasted life. Ivan was contented to leave things the way they were, never attempting to improve himself, his marriage or engaging in his children’s lives. He perishes with many regrets. Proverbs 1:32 reads, “The complacency of fools destroys them.”
     Third, hatred seeks to kill. Tolstoy’s final tale, the “Kreutzer Sonata” is the most tragic. It is a story of a man named Pozdnischeff, who marries his wife for her beauty only, and they hate each other. After suffering almost twenty years of miserable marriage, his wife has an affair with another man. Pozdnischeff finds his wife and the man together. Raging, he grabs a blade and stabs her under the ribs, murdering her. Recalling the incident with regret, he confesses, “It was only when I gazed upon her dead face that I realized what I had done.” The action destroys his life. With tears, Pozdnischeff retells his story to a man on the train. Knowing his life will never be the same, he warns his listener not to make the same mistakes. Hatred is a flame that starts small and, unchecked, will reign. Pozdnischeff knows this truth first hand.
     The characters in Leo Tolstoy’s stories are overwhelmed with greed, complacency and hatred. Tolstoy does not offer direct answers on how to live life purposefully, but he hits the nail on the head by displaying greed, complacency and hatred as poisons that once injected into our lives, maim and destroy. For the Christian, purpose in life is found in following Christ without reserve. Happiness is only obtained when all materials and vanities in our lives are surrendered for the cause of the Savior. For every vain and idle word or deed we will be judged. Solomon sums it well: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14) May we purge ourselves of any fervent greed, lazy complacency or burning hatred which seeks to take away our joy and divest us of our purpose. John Wilkes Booth serves as an example for us all. God forbid it that a Christian should come to the end of his or her life and say with conviction, “Useless, useless.”


Daniel G said...

wow your essays are just as good as your blog posts, i really enjoyed that, thanks.

Ashley said...

REALLY? Wow! Thanks Daniel!