Anna karenina, p.228
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       Anna Karenina, p.228

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 8

  Ever since, by his beloved brother's deathbed, Levin had first glancedinto the questions of life and death in the light of these newconvictions, as he called them, which had during the period from histwentieth to his thirty-fourth year imperceptibly replaced his childishand youthful beliefs--he had been stricken with horror, not so much ofdeath, as of life, without any knowledge of whence, and why, and how,and what it was. The physical organization, its decay, theindestructibility of matter, the law of the conservation of energy,evolution, were the words which usurped the place of his old belief.These words and the ideas associated with them were very well forintellectual purposes. But for life they yielded nothing, and Levin feltsuddenly like a man who has changed his warm fur cloak for a muslingarment, and going for the first time into the frost is immediatelyconvinced, not by reason, but by his whole nature that he is as good asnaked, and that he must infallibly perish miserably.

  From that moment, though he did not distinctly face it, and still wenton living as before, Levin had never lost this sense of terror at hislack of knowledge.

  He vaguely felt, too, that what he called his new convictions were notmerely lack of knowledge, but that they were part of a whole order ofideas, in which no knowledge of what he needed was possible.

  At first, marriage, with the new joys and duties bound up with it, hadcompletely crowded out these thoughts. But of late, while he was stayingin Moscow after his wife's confinement, with nothing to do, the questionthat clamored for solution had more and more often, more and moreinsistently, haunted Levin's mind.

  The question was summed up for him thus: "If I do not accept the answersChristianity gives to the problems of my life, what answers do Iaccept?" And in the whole arsenal of his convictions, so far fromfinding any satisfactory answers, he was utterly unable to find anythingat all like an answer.

  He was in the position of a man seeking food in toy shops and toolshops.

  Instinctively, unconsciously, with every book, with every conversation,with every man he met, he was on the lookout for light on thesequestions and their solution.

  What puzzled and distracted him above everything was that the majorityof men of his age and circle had, like him, exchanged their old beliefsfor the same new convictions, and yet saw nothing to lament in this, andwere perfectly satisfied and serene. So that, apart from the principalquestion, Levin was tortured by other questions too. Were these peoplesincere? he asked himself, or were they playing a part? or was it thatthey understood the answers science gave to these problems in somedifferent, clearer sense than he did? And he assiduously studied boththese men's opinions and the books which treated of these scientificexplanations.

  One fact he had found out since these questions had engrossed his mind,was that he had been quite wrong in supposing from the recollections ofthe circle of his young days at college, that religion had outlived itsday, and that it was now practically non-existent. All the peoplenearest to him who were good in their lives were believers. The oldprince, and Lvov, whom he liked so much, and Sergey Ivanovitch, and allthe women believed, and his wife believed as simply as he had believedin his earliest childhood, and ninety-nine hundredths of the Russianpeople, all the working people for whose life he felt the deepestrespect, believed.

  Another fact of which he became convinced, after reading many scientificbooks, was that the men who shared his views had no other constructionto put on them, and that they gave no explanation of the questions whichhe felt he could not live without answering, but simply ignored theirexistence and attempted to explain other questions of no possibleinterest to him, such as the evolution of organisms, the materialistictheory of consciousness, and so forth.

  Moreover, during his wife's confinement, something had happened thatseemed extraordinary to him. He, an unbeliever, had fallen into praying,and at the moment he prayed, he believed. But that moment had passed,and he could not make his state of mind at that moment fit into the restof his life.

  He could not admit that at that moment he knew the truth, and that nowhe was wrong; for as soon as he began thinking calmly about it, it allfell to pieces. He could not admit that he was mistaken then, for hisspiritual condition then was precious to him, and to admit that it was aproof of weakness would have been to desecrate those moments. He wasmiserably divided against himself, and strained all his spiritual forcesto the utmost to escape from this condition.

 

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