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    25 may, 2012

    A sympathetic word

    Author: Valentin Kurbatov, no comments

    Here is when one starts to feel a true fatigue: when you see that you are repeating something once and long ago said as news. Say, you come across your own old article and redden: here you are, skidding. You look around as someone lost in the forest and see that you’ve already passed by this place, which means that you are not moving forward but hovering on the spot…

    This way, I was embarrassed to see my own 20-year old note in the Moscow Magazine called “From a word to the Word.” I tried to convince someone (Who de we convince but ourselves?) in it that the world could get better if we remembered the true meaning of each and every word and would say it again: “Love, hope, kindness, Motherland.” If people saw the substance of the word, its heart, and felt the severe truth of its meaning.

    And then I remembered how during the previous convocation of the Civic Chamber, getting ready to a scheduled meeting of the Commission on the historical heritage protection, I caught myself on the very same thought: the word should be the first thing to protect. If with archeological carefulness we shake off it the dust of centuries and human misunderstandings, speculations and direct attempts of elimination, bring it into the light, we will easily see that we no longer are the children of our own memory, our faith and our Motherland. The hated by Konstantin Leontiev “platitude of progress” has suppressed even those who had sensed the danger of this platitude better than others and resisted it for a longer while.  I came to the Chamber to talk about this and saw the papers prepared for the discussion and got struck with “Developers should give preferences to cluster investments.” Here it is! And you, the fool, with your “word!”

    And this was not an enemy who had been working on the papers, but high professionals and advocates.  This means that the poor things are nowadays ashamed to use normal human language and sink in the bad crater of borrowed terminology which makes the entire world look the same way. There is no surprise that the tender, almost stucco Pskov churches, built with prayer and love are restored with mechanical lightness and inhabited with veneer and often even plastic sofrin’s iconostases, so that this no longer is a prayer but “spiritual investment,” and not to the creator, but a “developer.”

    The word cannot be betrayed without a punishment.  We can stay without faith and home right in the middle of a church and the Motherland, ashamed of our “poor” words in front of foreign language equalization. As the matter of fact, the dictionary also is an instrument and material, and with alien words, plastics, chemistry and application manuals come on their own in replacements of our domestic wood, stones and spirit.

    No doubt, our deflated patriotic rhetoric is no better at all when all the words seem to be correct but long ago depraved of the living pain. The same Leontiev wrote repentantly about his youth: “It was necessary to conceive, while I only knew to think.” Here we are as well: we are only “thinking.” And we are about to lose the ability to conceive. And in the meantime, we are slowly but steadily losing our Russian identity. And with it, the living and flourishing in its complexity Orthodoxy, which, had we read the available now works of Russian religious educators and missioners, was such a living breath in Siberia and in the Urals, in Pskov and Irkutsk, that even now could be seen in the old icons that have survived at museums and solid old houses.   And nowadays, all over Russia we are replicating icons from the same samples, so that the churches start looking alike, and the prayer, which is so much dependent on the image, its light and spirit, becomes averaged.

    Quite alike, the word, run down to mechanistic sounding and placed in the furrow, more and more often is circling on the spot and does not lead anywhere. It seems like it is circling energetically, so that only the dust is flying away and the arms are gleaming, but it is circling in the air, with no contact with the road.  Please excuse me that I keep referring to Leontiev, but, in my opinion, he did the most important thing, which had not been heard at the time, and now is absolutely forgotten: the word in not without personality; it always is the person who is saying it; it always is either a confession or a prophecy, and never just information. Who was it and when to say that we had replaced wisdom with knowledge to once humiliate the knowledge with the role of pure information? And the information, in the contrast to the wisdom and knowledge, does have no face. And here we are, have packed newspapers and magazines, radio and television channels with information up to the very roof, while we did lose ourselves; and the world of ours is external and thin, while the soul is “thick.”

    There is no way to reach the high offices with a scream; in the democracy those are higher and higher: you look upward, your hat falls down, but those above you don’t even see you in the bottom. They have long ago replaced you with diagrams and sociological surveys, convenient numerals. And Russia has always been distinct from other nations and cultures by the “personal” character of the country. Hey, would they say, here we go! We have never valued personality in our country!  However, individual persons and the national individuality are far two different things with all the similarity of words. And, I am even afraid to phrase it, as if reciprocally proportional…

    This is exactly why I keep talking about the Word, about distinctions in the hints, where the true fullness of senses is breathing. We have already assigned a “year of the Russian language,” but never learned to listen better, and never got stronger, because a year is far not enough; it needs the entire life. And never mind how tired we are, but once you are living, do live and don’t leave your words. We are praying daily in the same words, and those don’t lose their strength. This means, we must stand up in front of the Word as if in front of the Image. And it will say back.

    Trud (“Labor”) Newspaper , May 25, 2012

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