“I can see the sun, but even if I cannot see the sun, I know that it exists. And to know that the sun is there – that is living.”
Dostoevskys life was as dark and beautiful his novels. His first novel ‘Poor Folk’ brought him instant success, but his career was halted by his arrest for alleged subversion against Tsar Nicholas I in 1849. He was placed in front of a firing squad, dressed in a “death shroud” facing an open grave and awaited his execution when suddenly an order arrived reducing his sentence. He spent four years at a hard labor camp where he began to suffer from epilepsy and only returned to Home 10 years after his original arrest. His experiences in prison coupled with a newfound understanding of Jesus would form the foundation for his best known works. Crime and Punishment (1866), the Idiot ( 1868) and the Brothers Karamazov (1879-1880) one of my favorites "The Grand Inquisitor” is an individual poem within 'The Brothers Karamazov'.
In it Jesus Christ is walking the Earth during the Spanish Inquisition. He is arrested by the Church which is led by the Grand Inquisitor who has sided with the Devil, and states that the world no longer needs Jesus because the Church can better fulfill mankind’s needs by itself. The dueling viewpoints reflect Dostoevsky’s own doubts about God and religion…. but that is just it. Oftentimes “Christian art” can be very one dimensional. But when Dostoevsky talks about God and Jesus he uses the complex set of Human experiences: love, death, despair, doubt, hope, shame, vulnerability, empathy, depression, wonder, violence, compassion and joy, to name a few… being a “tortured artist” can be a very damaging way to live. Rather then making art with pain, what if it is made in spite of it? Seeing the creative process as a healing light and maybe the healthiest parts of ourselves?
Dostoevsky lived through some truly dark experiences but in spite of it he took them and wrote stories that resonate with people, that offer a vast exploration of ideas crucial to the human experience, the mystery of God and the personhood of Jesus.