Lance Scranton: Avoid the ‘Karamazov’ curse with consistency and resourcefulness
January 2, 2018
I fell under the "Karamazov curse" last year as I was trying to complete Dostoevsky's wide-ranging, expansive novel about brothers who couldn't be more different. The sibling contrasts were intriguing but, like so many things in life, the explicitly elaborate commentary began to make me feel somewhat indulgent, and those who are wise tell me to beware that too much explaining can have the effect of too much excusing.
The detailed explanation of one brother's dishonest, dishonorable and sometimes reprehensible actions was beginning to make me feel some degree of empathy.
Analysis and explanation are said to be the best tools for liberating the mind, but unless it also stocks our self-mastery, it can be harmful in a gradual and subtle way. We should always be aware of becoming so understood (and to understand) that it might tend to excuse or distract from the blame and guilt (or credit).
Moral evaluation was a hot topic as 2017 ended, and many powerful people got caught up in a firestorm of reckoning that centered around the treatment of others in our culture. Sometimes, people we really like and care about can do things that we can neither believe nor excuse. But the need to constantly analyze and attempt to decipher the intent, can lead to excusing the action.
Each of us begins a new year with high hopes, big dreams and ambitious attitudes about what the next 365 days could look like. We are inspired by different experiences to aspire to be a better person by year's end.
The excitement lives strongly for a few weeks, until we encounter something that pushes back on our goals.
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This is where the "Karamazov curse" can be broken but breaking the spell requires two very important ingredients: consistency and resourcefulness. By consistently doing those things that encourage self-mastery and by using the resources you have around you each day, a better 2018 is a reality. But slipping back is the enemy of progress, and over-analyzing will lead to excuses.
We all have battles to fight, some more serious than others, but just remember to differentiate between a reason (a cause or explanation) and an excuse (to defend or justify). We all want to help others and help ourselves, so let's avoid the excuse-making chatter and make way for a year of goal-reaching action to be a better community and better individuals which starts with each one of us doing our part.
Lance Scranton is a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School.