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Saturday, 17 August 2013

People are like rivers

"It is 1 of the commonest and most widespread misconceptions that every person has a set of fixed qualities; he is said to be good, bad, bright, stupid, dynamic, apathetic, and so on. People are not like that. We can say of a man that he is more often good than bad, more often bright than stupid, more often dynamic than apathetic, and vice versa; but it would be wrong to say of 1 individual that he is good or bright, and of another that he is bad or stupid. But that is how we always do divide people up. And it is wrong. People are like rivers: the water in all of them is the same and everywhere identical, but each river has its narrows and rapids, its broad stretches and gentle currents, sections that are clear or cold, others that are muddy or warm. So it is with people. Each person carries within him the germ of all human qualities, showing some of them 1 moment, others the next, and sometimes acting right out of character, while always remaining the same. Nekhlyudov was that type of person..." 
(Lev Tolstoy, "Resurrection"- part 1 chapter 54, tl. Anthony Briggs) 





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This is the reason I can't find words to describe myself. Sometimes I'm this, sometimes I'm that, which can be grouped into 2 separate personalities that coexist in my body and that take turns to dominate my words and actions. Yet, on 2nd thoughts, I may not be as complex as I think, or I indeed am, but human beings are all complex and self-contradictory. 


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I doubt that I may change from now on, that is, the tendency to divide people up. Following the motto "thou shalt not judge" isn't easy, and on the other hand I'm not sure if I really want to. In my opinion, the point is not to stop saying or thinking that somebody is witty, impatient, short-tempered, dim-witted, insipid, garrulous, fascinating, artificial, selfish, practical, deceitful, cruel, cynical... but to be aware that these traits or qualities often appear but they are not fixed. As I've said before, each human being has all traits in varying degrees, eg. selfishness is in all of us but a person is said to be selfish if he's more selfish than usual and he's more often selfish than not, and to say that everybody can be/ is selfish is not an excuse for his selfishness. 

That's what I like to say- the point is the awareness that these traits or qualities often appear but they aren't fixed in a person's character (the selfish person can, under certain circumstances or in certain moods or due to certain reasons, acts selflessly, altruistically), and that one should try to understand and look upon life from that person's point of view instead of judging, criticising and condemning. I know how grotesque it is, such a statement coming from me, since I know full well I am very critical and that is a negative trait for a person and much worse for an aspiring writer. This needs to be changed, and the quote by Tolstoy is therefore published here to remind me of it. 

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