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The Needs of the Day

One thing I enjoyed in college was the use of a literature journal. A professor never made me keep one until my senior year when I took two courses with a professor I look up to now. Part of my grade in both courses (20% in fact) was keeping a journal. What he wanted us to do in these journals was to think. And, when I first started the first one, I saw what he intended. As an English major, I read many many many texts, and sometimes, later, I wouldn’t quite remember too much about the book or short story or essay unless we discussed specifics in class. What my professor intended with these journals was to make us remember what meant most to us in the text. It could be quotes, thoughts, soup boxes caused by something the text said, etc.

This literature journal idea is something I want to keep up, but something I have been less-than-willing to do because it almost requires me to have a pencil in hand to mark a passage I want to go back to later. However, since I recently began reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, I almost want to start back into journal keeping. Instead of marking a passage with a pen or pencil (using an * tends to be my favorite way to mark a place), I just folded the corner of a particular page which caught my eye.

That passage is near the very beginning of the novel:

There was no answer, except the general answer life gives to all the most complex and insoluble questions. That answer is: one must live for the needs of the day, in other words, to become oblivious. To become oblivious in dreams was impossible now, at least till night-time; it was impossible to return to that music sung by the carafe-woman; ad so one had to become oblivious in the dream of life.

One of the reasons I noticed this passage was because I had just finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo, and was struck with one of the lessons the novel tries to give readers: wait and hope. Both Monte Cristo and Anna Karenina‘s message is about life (about the human condition!) which literature tries to depict.

With my more recent interest in Russian literature, I am struck by the darkness of this quote. But, what did I really expect? This is actually the kind of quote, the kind of question I am interested in looking at. People tend to focus so much on the positive, but I think that something negative can say something specific about the human condition as well.

Having said that, I have problems with this particular quote. However, I do like what it says when you strip away the negative implications of it. Sometimes we focus so much on the dreams, the desires, the wants we have for today, and we forget about the needs of the day: taking care of family, taking care of finances, taking care of the house, etc.

My generation has recently become obsessed with YOLO, you only live once, which besides being grammatically incorrect, is not as happy and positive an idea as everyone seems to consider it. I understand the thought behind it. Carpe diem, YOLO, live life to the fullest….

We can’t forget the life isn’t just about wants. It’s about needs, too. I don’t necessarily want to get a job and lose the freedom to read and write that I have now, but I do need a job in order to deal with all the other needs of my life. Until I find a way to break into a freelance writing career, I have to go into the work place and leave my comfy room with my over-filled bookcases. It’s not as bad a thing as it sounds once I put it into perspective. It’s one way I’m coming to terms with no longer being a student.

I don’t want to be didactic. These are just thoughts. Thoughts which should be in my literature journal that hasn’t been created yet. But, these thoughts are extremely relevant to my return from an undergraduate degree into the real world, and that’s exactly what this blog was started for.

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