Monday, July 13, 2015

Ivan Ilyich has his Rosebud moment

Ivan Ilyich died last night.

As death nears, Ivan Ilyich goes through various thoughts and emotions.  Tolstoy is phenomenal in being able to imagine the plight of a dying man and this thoughts.  But then, hey, that is why we value Tolstoy's writings, and will continue to treasure them, whereas everything in this blog will be mere ones and zeros of the cyberworld.
"Maybe I have lived not as I should have"--the thought suddenly came into his head.  "But how so when I did everything in the proper way?" he said to himself, and immediately rejected this solution of the whole riddle of life as something wholly impossible.
After the number of posts in which I have tried to convince myself (and this guy too!) about the urgency to figure out the priorities and to then accordingly shape our lives, I, of course, agreed with those thoughts that Ivan Ilyich had.  I would rather be mindful about my life's priorities when I am able than to regret about them later when I am dying.

Ivan Ilyich asks himself through his mental sufferings:
But what if in fact all my life, my conscious life, has been "wrong"?
I want to make sure I am able to echo in my own way Non, je ne regrette rien.

As Ivan Ilyich recalls his life, he feels that there was more "real" life of happiness the further back he went, to his childhood:



The more he moves through the memories from his childhood to the present day misery, the more the experiences are darker and darker.  As I read the sentences, I remembered many of my own blog posts, including this one in which I critiqued the fad of the "bucket list" of places to go to before one dies, in which I wrote:
 Imagine this: there you are lying on your deathbed.  You think not having been to the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall will be your greatest regret ever?  That your life was incomplete because you didn't visit that one place?  Given that the final thoughts can be incoherent, like theRosebud moment, let us advance that a tad to when we are not quite there, yet (though, there is always that probability of death striking us any second, like when I am blogging!)  The question still remains: life feeling incomplete because of not having been to the Taj Mahal?
 Even in that post, I had mentioned the Citizen Kane Rosebud moment.because I have been convinced for a while, and reinforced by talking with many older people, that some of the most enjoyed and precious memories are from our childhood.  Perhaps that connection is a reason why dementia leads people only to recall their oldest memories--it is nature's way of easing us into the end.  A couple of years ago, I wrote in an email to an old school friend that perhaps my own Rosebud moment will be me whispering the word "Neyveli" and nobody around would understand what that meant!

Dying is the last solo journey that we will take.  Nobody will come with us.  Ivan Ilyich finds that he is all alone on his deathbed:



In that lonely state, whatever he tries, his mind keeps going back to this childhood days.  Perhaps that is also why Tolstoy has Ivan Ilyich interact with his son, who is a schoolboy, before death arrives.
Now he felt someone was kissing his hand.  He opened his eyes and looked at his son.
And when death arrives, Ivan Ilyich thinks, "Such joy!"
"Death is finished," he said to himself. "It is no more."
He breathed in, stopped halfway, stretched himself, and died.

2 comments:

  1. I am glad you enjoyed the read and that it provided ample topics for thought.

    I offer an excerpt from my book that caused me to smile: "Her eyes were at their darkest and brightest now. Bathsheba's beauty belonging rather to the demonian than to the angelic school, she never looked so well as when she was angry - and particularly when the effect was heightened by a rather dashing velvet dress, carefully put on before a glass." You can picture her, can't you? I enjoy such passages, whether two sentences or two paragraphs, tremendously. One of the great pleasures of reading quality writing.

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  2. Yes, wonderful sentences that easily paint a picture in our minds are just awesome. Even more when those sentences are read aloud at a book reading. Especially when the sentences are not with some bombastic SAT words but simple everyday vocabulary. (Which is one of the reasons I love, love, Hemingway's works.)

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