Saturday, August 07, 2010

Pierre's Happy Insanity

Just before the Epilogue in War and Peace, the character Pierre, who has gone through the life changing experience of his suffering as a POW and his recuperation afterward, accidentally meets Natasha again, the only woman he has ever loved. Natasha is staying with Princess Marya, the sister of her fiance Andrei, who was mortally wounded in the only major battle before the capture of Moscow and who slowly dies as Natasha and his sister tend his serious wound and try to nurse him to recovery.

Pierre had always loved Natasha, yet it had always been scrupulously expressed in a brotherly manner--first because Pierre was already married (to a wife he hadn't seen for years, who was the social queen of Petersburg, and who never lacked the affection of the young men who attended her soirees) and second because Natasha was the fiancee of his best friend. But now Prince Andrei had died; and, in a fit of depression, Pierre's wife intentionally overdosed on an abortifacient that an Italian doctor was using to treat her "angina pectoris," an illness that comes "from the inconvenience of marrying two husbands at once." And one more reason, which in my mind is the reason that made the others reasonable. Pierre considers Natasha too pure, too sweet, too lovely for himself.

Now, Pierre meets Natasha again after she has wasted away in six months of mourning; but when they meet, for the first time she is able to tell the whole story of her suffering. And at the second meeting she smiles, faintly, for the first time. After several days of meetings, through Princess Marya, Pierre confesses his love (which was obvious already) and finds out that Natasha loves him too. This knowledge produced in Pierre a happy insanity. An insanity that made him "more intelligent and perceptive...than ever," able to understand "everything that's worth understanding in life."

Later in life when Pierre analyzes this insanity, he realizes that it consisted "in the fact that he did not wait, as before, for personal reasons, which he called people's merits, in order to love them, but love overflowed his heart, and, loving people without reason, he discovered the unquestionable reasons for which it was worth loving them."

It's worth 1124 pages just to get to this sentence. Loving people based on their merits is merely a blind for "personal reasons": how the other affects me. However, in loving for no reason at all, one comes to discover the "unquestionable reasons for which it was worth loving them." What happy insanity. It is the insanity of Christianity, divine insanity.

May God save us from sanity and grant us the courage to embrace happy insanity and to love people for no reason at all.

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