~ Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Human science fragments everything in order to understand it, kills everything in order to examine it.
~Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
I have to warn any regular followers that I will need to take a hiatus on posts here at Amelia’s Plum. I wish this wasn’t the case. But I’m running out of photos! If you look at my earliest photos and then see how they’ve progressed… sigh… they get worse and worse (with a few exceptions) because I’m grasping at photographic straws. January in Pittsburgh is not a prolific time for nature photography. It tends to be a time when I drink a lot of hot cocoa and take frequent naps under as many blankets as I can possibly find. I’d love to start a fundraiser campaign to go someplace where I could take more photos… Ireland, Scotland, and Greece are three current fantasy faves.
I wanted to post two Tolstoy quotes that sort of articulate the beauty and mystery of faith to me. I think science can be beautiful but, too often, especially in healthcare, I see the reverence for the miraculous, the inexplicable, brushed aside or dissected to the point that it kills the beauty of it (and not just to hate on science… this happens ad nauseam in English theory classes, I studied English undergrad!) But, with respect to science, here’s a case in point. I loved learning about VS Ramachandran and his mirror box that helps sufferers of phantom limb pain. I loved learning about his experiments to test for synesthesia and his whole intuitive, playful love for neuroscience. But then I read about his connecting hyperreligiosity to temporal lobe seizures. To be fair, he never says that this proves or disproves God’s existence but, well, it sort of took the beauty out of his experiments for me. It too closely resembled the dismay I’d feel in my English theory classes – just let me love these stories!! Don’t tell me why I should feel such a way. Let my heart be moved by them… I don’t like the secular rabidity to rationally or logically disprove God’s existence. It seems silly and rather sad. There’s an inherent disconnect to the whole argument. It avoids the truth of faith and belief, that it’s a knowledge deep in the heart.
And Tolstoy holds such a special place in my heart. He can articulate the vicissitudes of the human condition like no other. I am a neophyte to his writing but his heart is so unbelievably compassionate. It’s why I’ve always struggled with his being excommunicated from the Orthodox Church (you can read moving essays about this here and here). I pray that there’s a moment that’s beyond our understanding in this World, where people are able to unite with God. I think of the last page of The Death of Ivan Ilyich – it is breathtaking. I just cannot believe a heart so compassionate and obviously yearning could be condemned to being forever separated from God. I pray that Tolstoy had his Ivan Ilyich moment, where in place of suffering and death he found light and joy. That peace came to his heart. My heart wishes that for everyone. Perhaps that makes my views heretical, but when I look at what resonates for me in Orthodox writings, it’s the generosity of God’s love.
‘No act, however small, will be slighted by the just Judge.’ If sins are counted with such detail that we have to give an account of all our words, desires, and thoughts, then how much more will our good deeds, no matter how small, be counted in great detail and turned into merit before our loving Judge.
A quote from St. John Chryostom in The Way of a Pilgrim an absolutely beautiful book.