Artists working for the predatory animal

In between challenging books, or after a book that had a profound impact on me, I like to pick up something neutral, or something that I already know and enjoy reading, such as Turgenev’s or Chekhov’s short stories. I read the latter last weekend, to cracking freeze, and an inch of snow:

“Science and art, when they are true, are directed not to temporary or private purposes, but to the eternal and the general–they seek the truth and the meaning of life, they seek God, the soul, and when they are harnessed to passing needs and activities, then they only complicate and encumber life. All our intellectual and spiritual energy is wasted on temporary passing needs…. Scientists, writers, painters work and work, and thanks to them the comforts of life grow greater every day, the demands of the body multiply, but we are still a long way from the truth and man still remains the most rapacious and unseemly of animals, and everything tends to make the majority of mankind degenerate and more and more lacking in vitality. Under such conditions the life of an artist has no meaning and the more talented he is, the more strange and incomprehensible his position is, since it only amounts to his working for the amusement of the predatory, disgusting animal, man, and supporting the existing state of things.” Anton Chekhov, in “The House with the Mezzanine.”

The photograph shows Chekhov’s grave.


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