by Regina Kenney
One of the most amazing things about reading is it makes you feel connected to the world. Reading the thoughts, emotion, actions of an albeit fictional character – you can have that moment of ‘I know exactly what you are talking about, I have felt the exact same way‘ and sip in a solitary moment of unity with humanity.
The most shocking, beautiful of these moments come from old books.
A book written 50, 100, 300 years ago and you can still connect and empathize with the words? Pure magic. The human condition prevails and is universal.
One of my more prominent existential ‘woah’ moments came in Dostoyevsky’s 1879 novel, The Karamazov Brothers.
In our digital age of immediate gratification and access to everyone all the time, we may feel as though some experiences we endure are generation-specific.
For example – Drunk Texts.
“Why oh why did I write him? I hate that I live in an age where I can contact people at my most vulnerable.”
Well, guess what folks. People put their drunk into text long before the emoji.
Mitya in Brothers Karamazov:
“… He got thoroughly drunk. Then he asked for pen and paper and wrote a document of weighty consequence to himself. It was a wordy, disconnected, frantic letter, a drunken letter in fact.”
Weighty consequences. Wordy. Disconnected. Frantic. Drunken. I feel ya, Mitya. I feel ya.
And this isn’t the only drunk letter in the book. People are drinking wine and grabbing the quill many times throughout the novel.
I think what strikes me most about this concept is that we have a tendency when reading history to think that people of the past were proper, controlled, dignified.
Through the magic of literature do we see people have always been people, and people make dumb mistakes and sometimes that dumb mistake is put into writing and sometimes the ‘send’ button is clicked (or rather, the page boy is called to horse and buggy that mistake across town).
So the next time you wake up with an ache in your head and a fear to look at your ‘sent’ box on email… remember: You are not unique. What you are feeling has been felt many times by many people. Even in 1870s Russia.