“The Deepest Meaning of Human Love: Dostoyevsky’s Insight on Animal Rights”

by WellnessWivel
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“Love the earth and the sun and the beasts,” wrote Walt Whitman in his timeless advice on living a vibrant and rewarding life – advice that, like his poetry, is anchored in that all-encompassing totality of goodwill that makes life worth living. makes, advice to the heart whose act is of unselfishness; poetry largely inspired by the prose of Emerson, who had written of the “secret sympathy which links men to all beasts and to all the inanimate world about him.”

A quarter of a century later Leaves of grass, Fyodor Dostoevsky (November 11, 1821 – February 9, 1881) took up this lucid urgency in his last novel, The Brothers Karamazov (public Library | public domain) – one of the great moral masterpieces in the history of literature.

Portrait of Fyodor Dostoevsky by Vasily Perov, 1871

Dostoyevsky – who deeply felt the grip of personal love – outlines the greatest meaning of love:

Love every leaf… Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have observed it, you will begin to understand it better each day and you will finally begin to love the world with an all-encompassing love. Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and carefree joy. So don’t bother, don’t bother them, don’t deprive them of their joy, don’t go against God’s purpose. Man, do not exalt yourself above the beasts: they are without sin, while in your majesty you defile the earth by your appearance upon it, and you leave behind you the traces of your defilement – alas, this is true of almost every one of us!

In our era of ecological collapse, as we reflect on what it means to make reparations to our home planet, the following passage rings with particular poignancy, painting the antidote to the indifference that has brought us to where we are today:

My young brother even asked the birds to forgive him. It may sound absurd, but it is nevertheless correct, because everything, like the ocean, flows and interacts with everything else: touch one spot and you set up a movement on the other side of the world. It may be pointless to ask forgiveness from the birds, but then it would be easier for the birds, and for the child, and for every animal, if you yourself were kinder than you are now. Everything is like an ocean, I tell you. Then you would also pray to the birds, consumed by a universal love, as if in ecstasy, and ask that they too forgive your sin. Cherish this ecstasy, no matter how absurd people may think it.

Complement with Shelley’s prescient advocacy for animal rights and Christopher Hitchens on Orwell’s underappreciated morality Animal farmthen go back to Dostoyevsky, just after his death sentence was revoked, about the meaning of life.

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