The Idiot – Stay Awake to Life

What is it that makes it so hard to stay awake to life?

For the remainder of my reading of The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I’ll be posting one or two of my favorite lines that I read this morning. It’s a long book!

I’m feeling down today. It was a beautiful weekend. Spent some time with friends, ate some great food, made a great cake, worked on a rag quilt I’m making for my sons (pictures to come later), and even got some housework done. But…

Humans have upset me. Or, maybe I should say, I have let myself be upset by another human’s behavior. A long time ago, a friend of mine corrected me when I said that I didn’t like people. “That’s wrong, Michelle. You love people. You have high expectations and think they’re all wonderful, and then you get let down.” I scoffed.

But then thought, maybe she’s right. If I didn’t like people, why would I keep putting myself out there to meet new ones? There’s certainly no reason I have to. But I also don’t think my expectations are high. Simply do what you say you will do, and if you can’t, communicate with me.

It just doesn’t seem like that much to ask.

I will continue to try because I know there are so many hurting people out there, most of them just need love, patience, and a little understanding and acceptance. Sometimes though…it’s all so much.

Thanks for reading that part. I needed the moment to gather my heart back up.

Let’s get into The Idiot!

Like I said yesterday, I love Dostoyevsky because he paints characters and situations so well that I can see each scene acted out in my mind. Any of these people could be characters in a modern movie.

How about this sentiment from the prince’s description of a man’s thoughts as he was taken to the gallows.

“His uncertainty and revulsion against this new thing which was bound to happen at any moment were terrible; but he said that nothing was more awful than the incessant thought, ‘What if I was not to die! What if life was given back to me! What an eternity! And it would all be mine! I would turn each minute into a century. I would miss nothing. I would recon each passing minute and waste nothing!’ He said that this thought finally filled him with such rage that he wanted to be shot as soon as possible.”

There’s a strange reaction, right? He realized as he walked to the gallows to have his life ended, that he was able to make the very best of the few minutes he had left. He had made it right with his family. He took in all he saw to the very finest detail. And then, as he was about to die, freaked out at the very possibility of living like this any longer.

The next paragraph gets even better. His mind wanders off as he’s speaking and he stops talking, staring off into space. The woman he’s telling the story says,

“You’re wandering, Prince,” remarked Alexandra. “You probably meant to make the point that no instant can be considered petty and that sometimes five minutes are more precious than great riches. All this is commendable, but let me ask you about this friend of yours who told you such horrors – he was pardoned after all; he was given this ‘eternity.’ So, what did he do with this abundance of time later? Did he ‘reckon every minute’?”

“Oh no, he told me himself – I asked him about that. He didn’t live that way at all and wasted many, many minutes.”

“Well, that should show you it’s really impossible to live counting every moment. For some reason it’s impossible.”

So true, Dostoyevsky. So true. We try and fail, taking advantage of our limited time on earth as if it will go on forever. Until, that is, we come up against something else that shakes us awake and we start to notice… and then we fall asleep again.

Why isn’t living fully awake the default for us? Why must we expend so much energy to stay awake to life?

Want to read more? Start from my first post New CLASSIC Read: The Idiot.


  1. Why must we expend so much energy to stay awake to life? Question of a lifetime! Waking up is hard because in order to do so, we need to face the things about ourselves that we do not wish to see. But once the desire to see outshines the urge to hide, the light can find a chink in the armor of the dark. It’s not always comfortable, but it IS always worth it! Thanks for sharing.

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