Can spring be far behind? Or, a different happiness

“A writer is dear and necessary for us only in the measure of which he reveals to us the inner workings of his very soul.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

Ge_TolstoyEveryone is talking about the prolonged winter weather. On this second day after the vernal equinox, with spring break and baseball’s opening day only days away, we are still dealing with icy sidewalks and mounds of frozen, dirty snow. When I woke up yesterday morning and realized that the wind chills were in single digits, the phrase “can Spring be far behind?” came into my mind like a gift, without my bidding. While the poem the words come from, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” is about autumn, the final lines give shape to my current feelings:

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe,
Like wither’d leaves, to quicken a new birth;
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Last night in class we talked about Tolstoy’s theory of happiness and read sections from his short story/novella “Family Happiness:”

“I often lie awake at night from happiness, and all the time I think of our future life together. I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor—such is my idea of happiness. And then, on the top of all that, you for a mate, and children perhaps—what more can the heart of man desire?”

I was happy; but I took that as a matter of course, the invariable experience of people in our position, and believed that there was somewhere, I knew not where, a different happiness, not greater but different.

To love him was not enough for me after the happiness I had felt in falling in love.

…I was in excellent spirits. They had once been even higher at Nikolskoye, when my happiness was in myself and came from the feeling that I deserved to be happy, and from the anticipation of still greater happiness to come. That was a different state of things…

Below is a clip from Into the Wild, in which the main character, Christopher McCandless, reads from “Family Happiness” on his quest to reveal the inner workings of his soul.

What lines from literature stay with you to reveal your thoughts and feelings?


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