Why did you let me? (Love vs Sex 252)

‘Yes, you call it love but I call it torture,’ I said. ‘Why did you let me go into society if you thought it so evil that you ceased to love me because of it?’

‘It was not society, my dear,’ he said.

‘Why did you not use your authority?’ I went on. ‘Why didn’t you lock me up or kill me? I would be better off than I am now, deprived of all that made up my happiness. I should have been very happy, instead of being ashamed.’

I began to sob again and hid my face.

‘Yes,’ he began, as though continuing his thoughts aloud, ‘all of us, and especially you women, must discover for ourselves all the futilities of life in order to come back to life itself: the experience of other people is no good. At that time you were far from having got to the end of that sweet and charming nonsense that I used to enjoy in you, and I left you to have your fill of it, feeling that I had no right to stand in your way, although for me the time for that sort of thing was long past.’

‘If you loved me ,’ I said, ‘why did you stand by and allow me to go through with it?’

‘Because even if you had wanted to accept my experience  you would not have been able to: you had to find out for yourself — and you did.’

‘You thought it all out – thought it all out very carefully,’ I said. ‘You did not love very much.’

We lapsed into silence again.

‘That was harsh, what you said just now, but it is the truth,’ he exclaimed, suddenly rising to his feet and beginning to walk about the veranda. ‘Yes, it’s the truth. I was to blame,’ he added, stopping opposite me. ‘Either I ought not to have allowed myself to love you at all, or I ought to have loved you in a simpler way.’

Happily Ever After

Leo Tolstoy          1859

Cribb Comment: I believe this passage exquisitely portrays a dynamic all too common in any relationship involving one member who is maturely and aptly at peace with themselves and their existence versus another member who is immaturely floundering about in nervous energy anxiety (etc.) and the narcissism of satiating themselves in societal delusion and distraction. The passage is even more profound and relevant for this dynamic when a significant age disparity exists between these two entities. The man of this passage (the more mature entity in this case) profoundly loves this woman and he almost refused to marry her earlier in the book because of his prophetic knowledge of how things were likely to play out. The last sentence in the quote refers to this. His other counter to this tragedy, in this very same sentence, is to say “or I ought to have loved you in a simpler way.” My interpretation is to assume that this simpler way means without such passion or remaining further removed, but it is feasible that he is simply referring to enacting greater patience and personal acceptance of the “cost” involved in remaining unselfish and supremely stable in such a relationship. Any of these behaviors by the man would have required enormous self sacrifice and essentially equate to him moving into a long term yielding (negative) transcendence state (instead of a horizontal or upperward transcendence state) with someone he dearly loved.

At the time of this passage in the book, the female character has already bucked a simple, intimate, and quieter life with her husband, opting instead for the chaotic excitement and thrill which dwells most manicaly in the nervous energy of the fickle societal herd. She has run that course out of her own choice with some component of said choice being related to her utter defiance of her husbands stable posture and contentment which she cannot help but perceive primarily as authoritarian in nature. After profoundly discovering through her own experience and suffering that the societal bosom is never more than a “futility of life,” our female character must look to blame another for the consequences of her own unrelenting egocentric perspective. She must blame him, damn him for being too authoritarian or for not being authoritarian enough, to justify the suffering and consequence that she so proudly chose to march into with such gleeful determination. Our female character now sees all of the wasted and nonrecoverable time that she threw away in the suffering and consequence of her independent choices.

Cribb          2018


An Affectation of Simplicity: Tolstoy on Insecurity and Misperception (Love vs Sex 250)

Another thing that used to rile me but which I afterwards enjoyed was his complete indifference and, almost, disdain for my appearance. Never, either by word or look, was there a hint that he thought me pretty : on the contrary, he would make a wry face and laugh when people complimented me on my looks in front of him. He took a positive pleasure in picking out my defects and teasing me about them. The fashionable clothes on which Katya liked to dress me up and the way she did my hair for festive occasions only provoked his mockery, mortifying the kind-hearted Katya and at first disconcerting me. Katya, having made up her mind that he admired me, was quite unable to understand his not liking to see a woman he admired shown off to the best advantage. But I quickly came to see what was behind it. He wanted to be sure that I was devoid of vanity. And so soon as I realized this, I actually was quite free from any trace of affection in the clothes I wore, or the way I did my hair, or how I moved; but a very obvious form of affectation took its place – an affectation of simplicity, at a time when I could not yet be really simple. I knew that he loved me; but whether as a child or a woman I had not then asked myself; I prized his love and, feeling that he considered me better than all the other young women in the world, I could not help wishing him to continue in the illusion. And involuntarily I deceived him. But in deceiving him I became a better person myself. I felt how much better and more worthy it was for me to show him the finer side of my nature than any of the physical attractions. My hair, my hands, my face, my ways – whether good or bad, it seemed to me he had appraised them all at a glance and knew them so well that I could add nothing to them except the wish to deceive him. But my inner self he did not know, because he loved it and because it was in the very midst of growth and development; and there I could – and did – deceive him. And how easy my relations with him became once I understood this clearly! My groundless confusion and awkwardness of movement completely disappeared. I felt that from whatever angle he saw me, whether sitting or standing, with my hair up or down, all of me was known to him and, I fancied, satisfied him. If, contrary to his practice, he had suddenly told me, as other people did, that I was beautiful, I believe I should have been anything but pleased. But, on the other hand, how happy and light-hearted I would feel when, after something I said, he would gaze at me intently and say in a voice charged with emotion which he would try to hide with a humorous note : ‘Yes, oh yes, there is something about you. You’re a fine girl, that I must admit.’

Happily Ever After

Leo Tolstoy          1859

Cribb Comment:

In this passage Tolstoy writes from the perspective of Masha or Marya who is married to Sergei. Masha’s description of her own feelings is intended to display her inaccurate perception and interpretation of the behavior of her husband Sergei due to the insecurity and immaturity which plagues her soul. Sergei finds Masha to be the most attractive woman that he has ever known, but his profound love for her originates even more so in his awareness and appreciation of her drive and inner spirit. Sergei perceives and appreciates the unique exquisiteness of the totality of Masha’s essence far beyond any other person mentioned within the novel.

I would suggest that the conundrum and potentiated expression of Masha’s insecurity and misperception is buried within the “dominance challenge” created by the union of these two special souls. Masha’s unusually profound love for Sergei is both a supreme blessing and a curse to her as it bombards her relentlessly. Due to her youth and her lack of mature comprehension of the “simplicity” of genuine love and genuine life, she throws herself into an undulating and unstable fear-love pendulum of  perception and assumption. Her fear of losing Sergei’s love, which is too simple and too unexcitable to satiate her preconceived notion of such things, leads her to subconsciously exert efforts to justify her own attempt to dominate and/or demonize him.

The first third of the passage ends with a clarifying explanation. Sergei’s befuddling behavior has been focused primarily on a true appreciation of Masha’s exquisite beauty and, because of such awareness, not wanting her to run to ruin via the all too temptible sin of such exceptional attractiveness, vanity. Masha goes on to state that she “could not yet be really simple” and that she wasn’t sure if he “loved her more as a child or a woman.” She continues by saying that nonetheless “she prized his love” no matter how unfounded it might be and that she could not help herself from wanting to enable “this illusion” of his. To paraphrase, she is saying that she is scared and unable to comprehend how a man of such worth could love her in such simplicity. This fear leads her to doubt the true nature of his love, and though she cannot escape that insecurity, she also cannot let go of the possibility that his love could actually be genuine. Thus, she must continue down her undulating path of uncertainty by “wishing the illusion to continue.”

Masha’s many references to Sergei knowing, seeing, and perceiving her in every respect, also illustrates a dynamic rift in her psyche which she is unable to resolve at this time. On one hand, she is enamoured and overjoyed by his attentions, but on the other, she feels looked down upon, pitied, and too exposed by her vulnerability to be a worthy equal. As a result, she focuses on the mental triumph of “deceiving him” in order to raise herself up in confidence and self worth. That deception takes place secretly or passive aggressively in her psyche to avoid the direct or natural correction that would confront such behavior if she employed it directly or consciously.

Masha’s unwarranted fear and confusion turns into an undulating mind game which is then used to justify her passive aggressive need and employment of willful deception to bolster her self worth and confidence. Because she cannot fathom how Sergei might love her otherwise in simplicity, she attempts to turn herself into the exact opposite of such simplicity and/or his direct opponent. She cannot sustain the vision of how Sergei sees her. She can only sustain the vision of how she sees herself.

In the last line of the passage, we swing back once more into the slight glimmer of a faint flame of hope. Paradoxically, a simplicity is displayed in that sentence by Sergei that seems to somehow slip through all of Masha’s defenses to keep a tiny lingering tendril of her love for him enduringly intact.

Cribb          2018

Hyper-Emotional Addiction versus Love (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 221)

My love, instead of growing, had come to a standstill, and a new sensation of restlessness gradually invaded my spirit. Loving was not enough for me after the happiness I had known falling in love. I longed for activity, instead of an even flow of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to renounce self for the sake of my love. I was conscious of a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life. I had bouts of depression, which I tried to hide, as something to be ashamed of, and transports of violent affection and gaiety which alarmed him. He notice my state of mind before I did, and proposed a visit to Petersburg; but I begged him to give this idea up, not to change our mode of life, not to spoil our happiness. And I really was happy, but it tormented me that this happiness cost me no effort and sacrifice consumed me. I loved him and saw that I was all to him; but I wanted everyone to see our love and put obstacles in its way, so that I could love him in spite of everything. My mind, and even my senses, were occupied, but there was another feeling — the feeling of youth and a craving for activity — which found no scope in our quiet life. Why had he told me we could move to town whenever I wanted to? If he had not said that, I might have realized that the feeling which oppressed me was pernicious nonsense, for which I was to blame; that the very sacrifice I sought lay right in front of me — in the suppression of that feeling. The idea that escape from my depression could be found merely by moving to town haunted me, yet at the same time it seemed a shame and a pity for selfish motives to drag him away from all he cared for. So time went by, the snow piled higher and higher around the house, and there we remained together, always and for ever alone and just the same in each other’s eyes; while somewhere far away amidst glitter and noise multitudes of people thrilled, suffered and rejoiced, without one thought of us and our existence which was ebbing away. Worst of all, I felt that every day that past riveted another link to the chain of habit which was binding our life into a fixed shape, that our emotions, ceasing to be spontaneous, were being subordinated to the even, passionless flow of time. In the morning we were bright and cheerful, at dinner polite, in the evening affectionate. ‘It’s all very well . . .’ I thought, ‘it’s all very well to do good and lead upright lives, as he says, but we’ll have plenty of time for that later, and there are other things for which the time is now or never.’ I wanted, not what I had got, but a life of challenge; I wanted feeling to guide us in life, and not life to be the guide of feeling. If only I could go with him to the edge of a precipice and say, ‘One more step, and I shall be over; one more movement and I die!’, and then, pale with fear, he would catch me in his strong arms and hold me over the edge till my blood froze, and carry me off whither he pleased.

My state of mind affected my health, and I began to suffer from nerves.

I fancied he did not want to talk because he thought me a child who could not understand his preoccupations.

But no, he must needs suppose I shouldn’t understand, must needs humiliate me by his lofty composure and always be in the right against me.

I eventually said to him, ‘Why do you suppose I can never help you with anything?’

‘Not help me?’ he said, throwing down his pen. ‘Why, I believe that without you I couldn’t live. You not only help me in everything I do — everything — you do it yourself! However could you get such an idea! he exclaimed with a laugh. ‘You are my life. All’s well with the world simply because you are here, because I need you. . .’

‘Yes, I know all that: I’m a delightful child who must be humoured and kept quiet,’ I said in a tone which made him look up in surprise as if he were seeing something for the first time. ‘I don’t want quiet — there’s enough of that and to spare with you,’ I added.

I was now finding it very pleasant to disturb his equanimity. It annoyed me that he should be all serene and calm, whereas I was full of vexation and a feeling akin to remorse.

Happily Ever After

Leo Tolstoy          1859