Monday, March 2, 2009

We are all, right now, living the life we choose

Peter McWilliams

The short autobiography of a Russian author from the 1800's is worth a few minutes today. I included a few excerpts and a link to the text.

I AM THE SON of Gregory [1] Shevchenko, peasant and serf. I was born on March 9, 1814, in Kerelivka, [2] a village in the county of Zvenihorod, province of Kiev, upon the estate of a landowner. In my eighth year [3] I lost both father and mother, and found shelter with the village sexton who accepted me as one of his pupils. Such pupils find themselves in a condition of actual bondage just as the boys who have been apprenticed to craftsmen. The master's power over them has practically no limits. They have to perform all domestic duties and to fulfill every possible whim of the master and members of his household. You can imagine what the sexton in question, a wretched drunkard, could demand of me, and the things I had to do with the self-abasement of a slave.

His account continues with his experience in school and with the Sexton.

My sexton treated all his pupils with extreme harshness, and we all hated him. His unreasonable cruelty made us cunning and revengeful. We used to deceive him, and did all the mischief we could think of. He was the first despot I ever met, and my whole life long he filled me with hatred and contempt for every kind of coercion as practiced by one human being upon another. My childish heart was wounded by such educational methods a thousand times a day, and I concluded - as all defenseless people are bound to conclude when they cannot bear injury any longer - with revenge and flight.
One day I came upon my teacher in a state of drunken stupor and, turning upon him his own weapon, the rod, I used it as well as my childish strength permitted. This was my only chance to get even with him for all his brutality. Among his earthly possessions this drunken sexton had a little book with pictures, and although the engravings were of extremely poor workmanship, at that time they appeared to me as the most precious work of art. I could not resist temptation. I took the little picture book and ran away by night to the town of Lysyanka.

The last paragraph sums up today's theme:

I must confess that this short story of my life cost me more than I would have expected. How many years wasted, one after another! And what have I, through all my efforts, redeemed from destiny? I have survived, that is, preserved my bare life and, with that, this dreadful insight into my past. It is dreadful, all the more dreadful for me, as my own brothers and sisters - I was not strong enough to mention this in my story - have remained sers to the present day.

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. .

Carl Sandberg

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You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.

Harlan Ellison