More Lessons from Peasants
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 6:50 AM [+]
Continuing to read Undiscovered Russia. Recall that it is a book written by an Englishman traveling about pre-revolutionary Russia. Here's the latest gem (thanks to Basil for confirming my suspicions on the word moujik - which is generally akin to peasant):
The moujiks are sociable and brotherly; they do things together, sing together, pray together, live together. They like meeting together in public places, in churches and markets. They like great parties at marriages and funerals, and prodigal hospitality at all festivals. They like to wash themselves together in the public baths, and to work together in field and forest. They are more public than we are ; less suspicious, less recluse. They would never live next door to anyone and not know all his family and his affairs. They always want to know the whole life and business of a stranger moujik, and the stranger is always willing to tell. They do not shut themselves in; their doors are open, both the doors of their houses and the doors of their hearts.
This simple charity is the peasants' heritage. It is what we have lost by our culture. It is a golden virtue, better worth preserving than all other prosperity. Consider how it is we have partly lost it, and how the peasant may lose it also if the ministers of progress are not careful.
Carlyle once observed that the book had now become the church. Men entered into books as formerly they entered churches. This is profoundly true, but it is not a truth of which to be necessarily proud. The book has been a great separating influence. It has taken us away alone. It has refused to be shared with others. It has taken us from our parents, our wives, our husbands, our friends. It has given us riches, and not necessarily given the same riches to others. It has distinguished us ; it has individualised us. It has created differences between ourselves and our fellow-men. Hence our pride, our suspicion, our distrust. Churches are not of stone. A church is composed of two or more people gathered together with one accord. The great ideal of a nation has been to be one church, but books have been the disintegration and ruin of that church.
In Russia there are no books. The Church supplies the place of all books — I am, of course, speaking of the peasantry. Instead of every book being a church, the church is the book.
Hence the delight in every tiniest portion of Church ritual; hence the full attendance at the churches; hence the delight in the service and in the music. Hence the wonderful singing, that is accomplished without organ and without books of the score. If Russian choirs astonish Western Europe, it is because Russians have loved to come out and sit together on logs in the village street, and sing for hours, night after night. If they learn to play the balalaika well, it is because they all make balalaikas themselves, and play upon them together from boyhood to old age.
Read the whole chapter here.
A lot of meat there. I get a sense from that section on books isolating us from one another that there is great truth there - especially if we look at the state of Christianity since the Bible took the place of the Church. And now we hardly know our neighbors at all.