The Path of the Prosaic

for Natalie Long

Faith comes not from theory but from experience, from the bottom up, by living the right sort of life from moment to moment. For Zossima, that means attending to the prosaic. One must seize the smallest opportunities for kindness and must care for the person right in front of one. Faith requires presence. The radical intelligentsia, as every Russian reader knew, argued the reverse, that present people must be sacrificed to future happiness.…  We must accept good and evil not as social conventions but as absolutes; and we must acknowledge, as Zossima says, that “everyone is responsible for everyone and everything.” Above all, we must never place our faith in revolutionary violence or any other secular miracle. Instead, we should discover real life, and the genuine opportunity for goodness, in the prosaic.
—Gary Saul Morson, “The Greatest Christian Novel”

At last Alyosha [Karamazov] realizes that faith must be based not on  “immediate  deeds,” “swift achievements,” and dramatic action, whether miracles or revolutions.  It is not a matter of moving mountains, as the villainous Smerdyakov supposes, but of prosaic kindnesses and gifts as small as an onion. As the devil is in the ordinary, so is everything truly saintly.
—Gary Saul Morson, Wisdom Confronts Certainty

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