Posts tagged ‘Doctor Zhivago’

March 14, 2014

Lessons from a Russian doctor: Life, too, is only an instant

The following quote is from the poem “Wedding” at the end of Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago:

For life, too, is only an instant,
Only the dissolving of ourselves
In the selves of all others
As if bestowing a gift.

I often comment on the importance of maintaining your sense of individuality in life — of standing up for what you believe in, of honouring and acting on your life dreams and gut instincts above all else. This quote reminds us that it is also important to open ourselves to the people around us, to trust the process of social interaction, to knock down any walls built on fear and embrace the friendships, relationships, attachments waiting on the other side.

And it reminds us that life is indeed short. We are each of us just a moment in time, just a small part of the history of humanity and of the earth. Soon, that moment — your moment — will be gone. So live it while it’s here, and live it fully, as if you were a gift to the world. Because you are a gift to the world.

March 13, 2014

Lessons from a Russian doctor: Let language carry you

Good writing requires a special spark. That’s why I love the following passage from Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago; here, Pasternak describes the elusive flame of artistic inspiration, in which words take on a life of their own, language flexes its formidable muscle, and the (excited) author merely hangs on for the ride.

(Context: Yuri Zhivago, the novel’s protagonist, is working to record the poems that have grown within him for years.) 

After two or three stanzas and several images by which [Yuri] himself was struck, his words took possession of him and he felt the approach of what is called inspiration. At such moments the relation of the forces that determine artistic creation is, as it were, reversed. The dominant thing is no longer the state of mind the artist seeks to express but the language in which he wants to express it. Language, the home and receptacle of beauty and meaning, itself begins to think and speak for man and turns wholly into music, not in terms of sonority but in terms of the impetuousness and power of its inward flow. Then, like the current of a mighty river polishing stones and turning wheels by its very movement, the flow of speech creates in passing, by virtue of its own laws, meter and rhythm and countless other relationships, which are even more important, but which are as yet unexplored, insufficiently recognized, and unnamed.

This is a beautiful description of the magic of artistic creation, and if you are a writer or an artist of any kind, I think you’ll understand what Pasternak is saying. In other words: sometimes the creative energy just flows from within you. You enter “the zone,” and everything inside and outside of you seems to move in synch, to hum along in easy, seamless harmony, allowing you to produce a beautiful piece of art or composition, the final product simply flowing out of you with nary a thought or concern on your part. It’s an extraordinary feeling, when you experience it, but such moments are rare — which is why we artists tend to run with that special momentum when it hits us!

I wish you such inspired artistic energy in whatever field of creation you pursue.

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 11, 2014

Lessons from a Russian doctor: A metaphor for life in general

In Boris Pasternak’s classic novel Doctor Zhivago, Yuri Zhivago says to Lara Antipova:

I don’t think I could love you so much if you had nothing to complain of and nothing to regret. I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and of little value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.

I think this is a fitting metaphor for life in general: if you haven’t encountered and overcome challenges, setbacks or failures in your life; if you don’t have old scars that have healed with time, or wounds that are healing right now; if you haven’t faced difficult decisions and simply done your best to navigate those moments with as few bumps as possible, then I think you are missing out on the richness of experience and emotion that life has to offer. And in this experience and emotion is where the true beauty of life lies — or at least where you learn to see that beauty, in comparison to what has come before.

March 10, 2014

Live. Now. (No plans required!)

A great quote from the novel Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak:

Man is born to live, not to prepare for life.

Stop over-planning. Stop over-thinking. Stop over-analyzing.

Start simply living, in the very moment you are in right now.