In Brothers Karamazov we are given at least two different accounts of love. The first comes to us through the Grand Inquisitor. We will all agree that for to love to be true, it has to be freely granted. If you handcuff someone to you and then call them your best friend, we’d all find that suspect. Grand Inquisitor concludes that bribes or gifts are a way of enslaving one’s beloved and thus not truly love. If I offer my dog a ham, he will come to me, but it might not indicate that he loves me? Instead it might just show that he really likes ham (which of course he does). The Christian God’s offer of eternal life, Grand Inquisitor says, is like me bribing my dog with ham. Instead, he argues, is only if we suffer desperately because of our love and yet continue to love, that we can have any assurance of its being real. Not really a cherry fellow, after all.
The other account of love is portrayed most obviously in the characters of Alyosha and the elder Zosima (and that is one fabulous name). In this account, the lover, again imagined here as God, offers a world of good things (the world, in fact). And one only demonstrates that this love is reciprocated when one graciously indulges in all of the gifts offered. If someone shows you their love by giving you a Popple (a stuffed toy that could be tucked into a round ball and then POP out) and you write a derisive blog post about the gift, then the chances are that you don’t love that person (sorry). To spurn the gifts of the lover, are, in essence, to spurn the lover. In the course of the story this is important as Alyosha has dedicated his life to the Elder Zosima and is in the process of becoming a monk. But Zosima kicks him out and tells him to go live. It is only in pursuing the goodness of the world that one truly appreciated and returns God’s love.
Both of these seem to be some sort of paths to goodness (inasmuch as there is a certain logic to each), but if apples are apples, I pick a Honey Crisp and a McIntosh. In other words, I prefer my lovers to come with gifts, even if they are Popples.
So, how providential was the casting was of the 1958 version of Brothers Karamazov? A young William Shatner plays Alyosha. Given his later erotic adventures as Captain Kirk, it seems that he too believes that the beloved only truly loves when he appreciates the gifts that are brought.
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