The Terror of Arzamas

One day about one hundred and fifty years ago, in a small hotel in Russia, a guest—a devout Christian, a well-known writer—was suddenly feeling an unprecedented fear. In his letter to his friends, he said that this is the gloom caused by death. In fact, he was not very old at that time and his body was very healthy, but he could not escape the shadow of death.

He is Tolstoy, and the horror of this night has had a huge impact on his future life. The famous book “Anna Karenina” we see today was born under this horror.

People call it the horror of Arzamas.

It is doubtful whether the dead are still alive; but some people are alive but have died, it should be beyond doubt. The question of life and death is so empty and heavy. Confucius said that if you don’t understand life, you don’t have to think about that vague death if you don’t understand what you are alive. However, the other end of our life is connected to death, and only the optimists will choose to ignore it. . Of course, Lotte has its truth, and it may be the only correct view of the world, but unfortunately some people are born with restlessness. They want to squeeze the bitter juice from death as the nourishment of life. This kind of people are actually extremely tenacious, just like the cactus in the desert. The difficulties of the world can no longer defeat him, and at the same time, he loses his interest, so he can only ask the ultimate step by step to obtain the meaning of survival.

The first sentence of the British writer Eliot’s masterpiece “The Waste Land” was: I am going to die; Nietzsche shouted: God is dead! The above two people are hovering around the black hole of death all the time. However, when we look at their works now, we feel extremely depressed and desperate, and at the same time we can obtain unlimited desire for life. This is the will of life taken out of death, just as Prometheus stole hope for mankind from Zeus.

Every step, every laugh, every shout of ours is approaching death, calling to death. Happy people die in peace, their life is singing carols and throwing into death; the miserable people are crying and being pushed into death. In short, they will all become a pile of bones and elements of meaningless meaning. The rich and noble celebrities are no different from the poor and lowly. The difference is probably that the urn of the former is more precious and gorgeous! However, this is only a warm and boring behavior for posterity. Just as filial sons are keen to do things behind their parents, all the efforts of the living are only related to the living. If the dead have a soul, they can only act as a bystander.

To be clear, our discussion is based on life, and there has never been a life-weary person to discuss life and death; if so, he is no longer among the living. There is another kind of people, which we usually call hypocrites and others, who love to talk about their future and destiny, and even think that all the misfortunes and blessings of mankind are placed on him. In fact, they are just poor insects who carefully care for their own honor and disgrace. It doesn’t matter if such a person is born in a weightless position, there are more dreamers in the world; if he is in a considerable position, it will be troublesome.

The brilliance of mankind probably lies in the fact that from ancient times to the present, there have been a group of pioneers, for their own confusion, and for the drunkenness of the people around them, to explore the problem that will not yield results after all. Shakespeare is like this. Hamlet’s self-questioning about survival or destruction is probably insanity in the eyes of contemporary people, but this is indeed the doubt that people must have because they are human. Otherwise, the concept of “human” is just a meaningless short hundred years from survival to death. It should be explained that from a utilitarian point of view, Hamlet has little effect on human progress: he cannot increase GDP, nor can he immediately eliminate human suffering.

But when I was in college, I was shocked by Hamlet’s words, and was misunderstood by my classmates, thinking that I was mentally confused, so I immediately reported it to the counselor. The kind woman found me immediately, communicated with me softly, and asked about my recent difficulties. She was so concerned, and I was very touched, but I really couldn’t tell her of my confusion. I had only to obey her imagination and fabricate a few unnecessary difficulties. She helped me solve the problems one by one, and I expressed my gratitude and said that I would obey. From then on, I dared not speak wildly anymore, and lived a full university life like my classmates. The counselor thinks that his counseling has played a role, and if he talks about it again and again, it will probably be passed on from time to time! This is similar to the madman in Lu Xun’s “Madman’s Diary”. The madman finally went “alternate”, and I became a normal student with a good ending.

Perhaps now that scientific rationality has been established step by step, people have been greatly liberated, but at the same time they have lost a little meaning. China did not have modern science in the past, and was in long-term misery, and had no time to think about metaphysical issues. Although the West has always been the home of modern science, it also has a strong theological backing. But in the twentieth century, both the East and the West tended to be peaceful as a whole, and religion was basically stripped of all the sacred cloaks. At this time, people were completely at a loss in the materialized society. During the epidemic, people seemed to like to mention Camus’s “The Plague”, but only the name of the book matched their imagination. Existence precedes essence, everyone loves to shout this famous saying, in order to strive for greater freedom; however, the more freedom, the mediocrity will follow.

In the 21st century, in this weird age, people have returned to rationality, and the price paid is mediocrity-this is the age when Wang Anyi frankly cannot write romantic, noble and magnificent works.

When I was very young, about the fourth grade, I followed my eldest brother to watch acrobatics on the county square. There are a lot of people there. Looking at them, I slowly came up with an idea: They all have an “I” in their hearts. In my opinion, the world is the “me” world, and I see everything from the “me” perspective, including observing them. But they also have an “I”, and the “I” reverberates in their hearts all the time. I can treat everything from the outside as a display of some kind of power that confuses me, so they can too, such as treating me as a lifeless child who can only walk. When you are alone in a room, staring at your name or meditating on your own existence, you will be moved by “I”, but lost and fearful. This me is thinking at this moment; this “me” will turn into dust in a hundred years.

I was young at the time, and I only felt uneasy. At the same time, because of the child’s disposition, I quickly abandoned it. I am afraid this is the biggest advantage of being a child. After more than ten years, the confusion of “I” would occasionally burst out. I wanted to go deeper, but I didn’t dare. I know that this is a problem that can’t be figured out through thinking; maybe, if you are careless, you will completely lose “I” and become a lunatic. I don’t discriminate against lunatics, and the common saying is also a clear truth: the world in which I live is different. Their world has a shadow in the fog, a mark on the sand, and a sound in the wind, while ours is clear and rational. As a so-called normal person, as long as there is a normal “I”, it is impossible to cross the minefield to another world.

Mortals can only walk carefully to the place hidden in darkness or light step by step, and once they feel dangerous, they immediately return. Psychologists are to a large extent such pathfinders. Some people can’t come back if they go far. Others, fortunately, have a certain degree and are able to shuttle back and forth between two worlds.

Such people are in the minority after all, and most people choose to escape so as not to worry about themselves. In fact, this is also one of the attitudes towards life. If we did not encounter the horror of Alzamas, then we should learn from our childhood self and live happily! If I run into it, I can honestly say that Tolstoy has not solved the problem in the end. But for the end, I provide a “Goethe plan”, he also has this confusion, he said in “Faust”:

Anyone who keeps striving for self-improvement can be saved in the end.