Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gen'l Ardalion Alexandrovitch & the present moment

As my readers may remember, I am reading Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" and this morning on the bus, I read about a little gathering at a country home, wherein retired (and usually drunken) General Ardalion Alexandrovitch told a young lady that he had held her in his arms when she was a child. Another guest, who knew the general, protested that this was a lie (why she said this you'll see in a moment) and she was quite angry.

But... the girl remembered the general! And her sister piped in that she remembered him too, and they began recalling several pleasurable memories associated with him.

And there was this passage...

"The poor general had merely made the remark about having carried Aglaya in his arms because he always did so begin a conversation with young people. But it happened that this time he had really hit upon the truth, though he had himself entirely forgotten the fact. But when Adelaida and Aglaya recalled the episode of the pigeon, his mind became filled with memories, and it is impossible to describe how this poor old man, usually half drunk, was moved by the recollection."

I had been uncertain, up to this point, whether to believe the General's comments, such as "I held you in my arms..." or "I knew such and such when he was..." and that sort of thing, often boasting. Now I see that they often were vaguely related to the truth, to memories that the General himself vaguely remembered, and that many of these comments and boasts were merely habitual.

It is not stated, so far anyway, why the General became an alcoholic. (He IS a prodigious drinker.) It may be that he is an unhappy man, whose dreams and aspirations and pride have gone unfulfilled, and many of his boasts and other comments merely reflect hopes rather than actual events.

But I wonder if he had focussed more clearly on happy moments, such as those the girls recalled, real moments that he actually experienced, rather than on what he hoped to achieve, or receive (which more often than not disappoint in one way or another) he might have ended up a happier man, a more respected man, more enjoyed by those around him, and not ended up a disappointed, boasting alcoholic.

I do also wonder if this experience might not signal an important change about to begin in the General's life. We shall see.

It reminds me that there is more than one way of looking at life. One can validly have hopes and desires and aspirations and goals, as long as they do not become such a focus that they blind us to the present moment, which very often, in the midst of trials, can be full of happiness and beauty, if we but see it. If we can focus on the present moment, with a certain gratitude and realistic optimism, we may end up all the more happy, hopeful, and more enjoyable to be with, as we grow older.

Something to think about.

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