Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Last night, with a class of men on probation out of Dorchester District Court, I took part in a remarkable discussion of the Tolstoy story, "Korney Vasielevitch." The story is about a rich man hungry for more, who, returning from a business trip, finds that his wife has been cheating on him. Under real provocation by her taunts, he falls into a rage, beats her savagely, and also permanently cripples the arm of their young daughter when she stands between him and his wife. Korney leaves the house the next morning and for seventeen years wanders deeper and deeper into denigration. At the end of that time, a drunken tram still driven by rage against his wife, he returns home. What follows is a drama of forgiveness that contains a range of moral subtleties not easily resolved.

The men were magnificent, not only interpreting and asking just the right questions, but also seeing the analogies to their own lives. One of the subjects that came up is whether everyone has a core of goodness, no matter how veiled. For eight weeks, through the course, the men have been rediscovering their own goodness, and it was a remarkable occasion to feel how much that discovery was in the air.

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