We were thinking about Tolstoy, the way he manages to write a perfect story, and had this series of thoughts:
There's always a moment in these books where you go into the woods and meet The Real Russia. That's where I want to be all the time. That incandescent place, wherever it may be. I was thinking about Natasha dancing.
Can you imagine writing stories as true as these? That contain everything. The iridescence of creation that's like a lens perceiving all.
Tolstoy stories are like infinity symbols. The 8 on its side. You see everything from every angle and, somehow, everything includes everything else. And those moments of Godhead, of lucidity, fluency, are oblique, like the ultimate angles: the moment in the dark pool where you see the reflection of the sky.
It's always like when, for a second, you find yourself no longer tense and you're just doing what you would normally do - and it's perfect. I think, if you checked, you would find that every character has one such moment, but the ones with greater tensions have more ecstatic epiphanies. The parabola is flawless.
It's something akin to what Joseph Campbell would call the meeting with the Goddess.* It's always somewhere green (in Tolstoy). Getting there is always an escape and leaving is always a pain. But you have to. Back to the world. Back to saving Russia with the knowledge the gods have taught you.
Natasha** meets God when she sings, when she dances, when she understands. Levin meets God out in the woods and peasant house while hunting. It's always the same, always an escape to pagan certainties. Tolstoy includes fairytale elements in his modern stories.
It's the bit I've just been reading. He goes out hunting with his two male guests from Moscow and they sleep in a barn. Everyone is taken with how charming it is and the other two want to go off and flirt with peasant lasses and Levin just wants to sleep. When he wakes up, his bad mood and bad luck have gone.
We've all had moments like that, moments of rest. How beautiful to be able to slot them into the frame of a story that supports them just so.
Yes, fairytale elements, like Andre's Dad saying he can't marry for a year, so fable-esque.
Who's to doubt that that Paradise is our inheritance and that to sing of it is to bring mankind closer to Heaven? It must be that what we glimpse momentarily as divine in this life will be ours eternally in the next. So to speak of it is to remind others and bring them closer to God. And to make art is to make manifest in this lifetime the kingdom of Heaven.
Like in the Lord of the Rings, characters have foretastes of the paradise that awaits them, in Lothlorien and Rivendell, the places on Earth that mirror Heaven. Cream and honey.
It's always surrounded by the hardest adventure and it seems that in complete stories there are two, one bigger and one smaller, one prefiguring or recalling the other, at the most extreme angles of the 8. Well, of course, in life there are always countless memories of home, but it's surrounded by frenzy, the dance, the war.
The shaman in his trance submerged in a cloud of smoke, perfect pleasure to drop out of mayhem and remember it's all a dream, and here is my body dancing, impossibly keeping the beat, whirling majestically, in the midst of so many obstacles, and I know if I tried to take control I would hurt myself, but I don't. I leave it all to God. Here is my voice singing perfectly and I just watch it flow out. I dare myself to remember the epiphany in future moments like now.
Art, too, is an epiphany.
The manifestation of God is like the dropping of pebbles into a stream, the ripples are religion. What manifests in history as religions manifests in the mind as thoughts.
*See the Hero with a Thousand Faces, or save time and read Dan Harmon's articles summarising it.
**Apologies to everybody who finds references to War and Peace and Anna Karenina hopelessly pretentious. If it's any consolation, I lied for years about having finished War and Peace, and only got around to doing so once I watched the BBC adaptation.