Sir Francis Bacon

Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.

--Of Studies--

Reflections on Crime and Punishment

~ 1300 words !!!Major Spoilers!!!

bravura - n - a display of daring, a brilliant performance

sacrosanct - adj - sacred or inviolable

conspectus - n - a general or comprehensive view, survey

I finished Crime and Punishment this week, and I have to say it is definitely one of (if not the) best book(s) I have read.

In the first place the ending was fantastic. This man, crippled by ambition, intelligence and circumstance, finds redemption. If you've read the book this comes as no surprise, and you might even have thought it a bit corny. Love saves him in the end. Well, I'd just like to point out that love is not what saves him. At the end of the book (after going to prison), Raskolnikov falls ill, a sort of lack of will or purpose in life. Psychosomatic illness occurs frequently throughout the book. He misses his visit from Sonya (who followed him all the way to Siberia) because she is ill (notable because it is one of only two occurrences of illness caused externally in the book. The other is Katerina Ivanova's tuberculosis). She has a cold. At this point he realizes how much he relies on her for emotional support, he had been snubbing her up to that point, more or less. Of course, realizing his love for her is only the first step. On her next visit, when none of the guards are looking, he throws himself on her feet. In the end, he overcomes his pride, which up to that point had prevented him from making public (or any) displays of emotion. I thought that was a very good ending. Raskolnikov learns that just because you have an idea, that doesn't make it a good idea, even if you can rationalize it. It takes him the murder of two innocents, incarceration in Siberia, and him causing the death of his mother for him to realize this. Lots of people, young people in particular, could benefit from this wisdom I think.

I would also like to share with you a paragraph that appeared near the end. It really stuck in my mind for some reason.

He lay in the hospital all through the end of Lent and Holy Week. As he began to recover, he remembered his dreams from when he was still lying in feverish delirium. In his illness, he had dreamed that the whole world was doomed to fall victim to some terrible, as yet unknown and unseen pestilence spreading to Europe from the depths of Asia. Everyone was to perish except for a certain, very few, chosen ones. Some new trichinae had appeared, microscopic creatures that lodged themselves in men's bodies. But these creatures were spirits, endowed with reason and will. Those who received them into themselves immediately became possessed and mad. But never, never had people considered themselves so intelligent and unshakable in the truth as did these infected ones. Never had they thought their judgements, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions and beliefs more unshakable. Entire settlements, entire cities and nations would be infected and go mad. Everyone became anxious, and no one understood anyone else; each thought the truth was contained in himself alone, and suffered looking at others, beat his breast, wept and wrung his hands. They did not know whom or how to judge, and could not agree on what to regard as evil, what as good. They did not know whom to accuse, whom to vindicate. People killed each other in some sort of meaningless spite. They gathered into whole armies against each other but, already on the march, the armies would suddenly begin destroying themselves, the ranks would break up, the soldiers would fall upon one another, stabbing and cutting, biting and eating one another. In the cities the bells rang all day long: everyone was being summoned, but no one knew who was summoning them or why, and everyone felt anxious. The most ordinary trades ceased, because everyone offered his own ideas, his own corrections, and no one could agree. Agriculture ceased. Here and there people would band together, agree among themselves to do something, swear never to part--but immediately begin something completely different from what they themselves had just suggested, begin accusing one another, fighting, stabbing. Fires broke out; famine broke out. Everyone and everything was perishing. The pestilence grew and spread further and further. Only a few people in the whole world could be saved; they were the pure and chosen, destined to begin a new generation of people and new life, to renew and purify the earth; but no one had seen these people anywhere, no one had heard their words or voices.

The first time I read this I thought, this is Dostoevsky's vision of a world consumed by the philosophical forces he sought to counter. As I read this again, however, I'm not so sure. Certain elements certainly have an anti-rational lean (such as the epidemic having the ability to reason), but in general it's almost like the tower of babel all over again. For those in my listening audience unfamiliar with the story of the tower of babel, it occurs in the Bible after Noah's flood. Essentially, a bunch of people band together after Noah's flood to design and build a gigantic tower that would protect them from another great flood. In punishment for their insolence, God makes it so that no person can be understood by any other. To a person "love" may mean "hate", and "war" may mean "peace". Stymied by their inability to communicate with each other, they all sort of meander off and went back where they came from, and that explains why all sorts of different languages exist in the world.

Among Biblical stories, this one (in my humble estimation) is extremely influential. Off the top of my head, "babble", our word for incoherent nonsense, bears striking resemblance to "Babel". The organism that slips into your ear and translates for you in the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the Babel Fish. In Final Fantasy II, one of the core environments is the tower of Babel, which supposedly reaches all the way to the moon. It's an interesting game, what with the whole walking on the moon thing, but final fantasy almost doesn't count in this regard. It seems to me as if the people who make those games actively pursue world mythology to integrate into their content, no matter how obscure the source. Granted the old testament isn't exactly obscure, but I've seen references to Homer's Odyssey (in the form of Scylla).

Here is a picture:

Not exactly congruous with the description in the Odyssey (something about seven heads), but undeniably final fantasy material.

Oh, and while I have you here, I'd just like to mention that my good friend Jeff Chapman (his blog) has a short story in an anthology up for preorder! The anthology is The Midnight Diner Volume 3 and the story is "The Princess and the Vampire", which I believe I mentioned actually. Jeff has a sample of his story up on his blog, so check it out if you have a taste for astounding tales!

Also, he has had another short story accepted, "The Master and the Miller's Daughter". I haven't read it myself, yet, but Jeff given the quality of Jeff's fiction (and the fact that it was accepted after all), I have reason to believe that it is very good. Check it out if you get the chance!

The image today came from a pop art blog if you can believe it. It's unfortunately been derelict for more than a year, but still has an interesting archive of pop art. I don't know if it's really art, I'm not exactly an expert, but here's the link anyways.

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