The Brothers Karamazov HTML version

5. Elders
SOME of my readers may imagine that my young man was a sickly, ecstatic,
poorly developed creature, a pale, consumptive dreamer. On the contrary,
Alyosha was at this time a well-grown, red-cheeked, clear-eyed lad of nineteen,
radiant with health. He was very handsome, too, graceful, moderately tall, with
hair of a dark brown, with a regular, rather long, oval-shaped face, and wide-set
dark grey, shining eyes; he was very thoughtful, and apparently very serene. I
shall be told, perhaps, that red cheeks are not incompatible with fanaticism and
mysticism; but I fancy that Alyosha was more of a realist than anyone. Oh! no
doubt, in the monastery he fully believed in miracles, but, to my thinking, miracles
are never a stumbling-block to the realist. It is not miracles that dispose realists
to belief. The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and
ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an
irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact.
Even if he admits it, he admits it as a fact of nature till then unrecognised by him.
Faith does not, in the realist, spring from the miracle but the miracle from faith. If
the realist once believes, then he is bound by his very realism to admit the
miraculous also. The Apostle Thomas said that he would not believe till he saw,
but when he did see he said, "My Lord and my God!" Was it the miracle forced
him to believe? Most likely not, but he believed solely because he desired to
believe and possibly he fully believed in his secret heart even when he said, "I do
not believe till I see."
I shall be told, perhaps, that Alyosha was stupid, undeveloped, had not finished
his studies, and so on. That he did not finish his studies is true, but to say that he
was stupid or dull would be a great injustice. I'll simply repeat what I have said
above. He entered upon this path only because, at that time, it alone struck his
imagination and presented itself to him as offering an ideal means of escape for
his soul from darkness to light. Add to that that he was to some extent a youth of
our last epoch -- that is, honest in nature, desiring the truth, seeking for it and
believing in it, and seeking to serve it at once with all the strength of his soul,
seeking for immediate action, and ready to sacrifice everything, life itself, for it.
Though these young men unhappily fail to understand that the sacrifice of life is,
in many cases, the easiest of all sacrifices, and that to sacrifice, for instance, five
or six years of their seething youth to hard and tedious study, if only to multiply
tenfold their powers of serving the truth and the cause they have set before them
as their goal such a sacrifice is utterly beyond the strength of many of them. The
path Alyosha chose was a path going in the opposite direction, but he chose it
with the same thirst for swift achievement. As soon as he reflected seriously he
was convinced of the existence of God and immortality, and at once he
instinctively said to himself: "I want to live for immortality, and I will accept no
compromise." In the same way, if he had decided that God and immortality did
not exist, he would at once have become an atheist and a socialist. For socialism