Posts tagged ‘character’

March 12, 2014

Lessons from a Russian doctor: A human definition of love

This week, I’m sharing quotes from Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago. I’ll post one passage that inspired or moved me each day!

Today’s excerpt is a beautifully human declaration of love, written by Yuri Zhivago’s wife Tonia in a letter to him late in the novel:

As for me, I love you. If only you knew how much I love you! I love all that is unusual in you, the good with the bad, and all the ordinary traits of your character, whose extraordinary combination is so dear to me, your face ennobled by your thoughts, which might not otherwise seem handsome, your great gifts and intelligence, which, as it were, have taken the place of the will that is lacking. All this is dear to me, and I know no man who is better than you.

What I like about this expression of love is that it takes its object for exactly what he is — what we all are — an imperfect human being, but a being worthy of love anyway. Tonia acknowledges that Yuri is just an average person: he is not a knock-out, he has quirks and faults and failings, but she loves him anyway, perhaps more so because of his imperfections. To her, this ordinary, unremarkable man is truly extraordinary, truly remarkable. Would that we can all experience this kind of love in our lives.

March 15, 2013

“To understand me, you’ll have to swallow a world”

From Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children:
(Note that the grammatical eccentricities are Rushdie’s own!)

I no longer want to be anything except what who I am.  Who what am I?  My answer:  I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me.  I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine.  I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come.  Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each “I”, every one of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude.  I repeat for the last time:  to understand me, you’ll have to swallow a world.