Originally published on 03/01/2013
There is something about being over here that causes me to look inward. Something about living in the megalopolis, as we discussed with our Russian Grammar teacher Galina, “makes a person lonely even though he is surrounded by people.” Well, to be completely truthful, I’m not lonely in the slightest. But Moscow has assuredly instilled some sort of deep introspection in me. Probably because of the crazy things we see every day. If we choose to, that is.
Normally our Russian grammar class is a little draining. Sometimes it feels like I’m beating my head against a brick wall. Then I remember that I’m studying Russian and that I am beating my head against a brick wall. Today, however, Galina gave us our mid-term as a take-home instead of giving it in class. As that act will probably single-handedly save my grade in the class, I started out the day with higher-than-normal spirits. Everyone else was doing their own thing after class, and Ashley had work, so Greg and I decided to go hit up St. Basil’s, visit a statue park, and drop off some film I attempted to shoot in the Holga (we’ll see if it turns out) to be developed.
We went to St. Basil’s first. Strangely, even after living in Moscow for two years, I had never actually made it inside. When Greg and I looked up the visiting hours online, it was even listed as a “less visited” attraction in Moscow. That seemed a little strange to me, but understandable I suppose. Everyone, myself included, came to see the beautifully unique temple. Most come, see the fairy tale esque temple’s strange exterior, stop, and take pictures. After which they most likely head in to GUM to buy something that is ten times what it should cost. They go and see, but they never actually see, or at least, I hadn’t If you haven’t been inside, do it, when you get the chance.
Greg and I then went adventuring to find what we called “The Statue Park,” but is really called Bolotnaya Ploshchad (which means, “Boggy Square”… literally) to see what we thought were called the “The Seven Deadly Sins.” Turns out we were wrong about that too, the collective group of statues being called “Children are the Victims of Adult Vices.” These statues were quite thought provoking and, especially after visiting St. Basil’s, caused me to go into one of those self-evaluating moods. The statues representing the vices stand in a semicircle around two, presumably innocent, young children. The kids are blindfolded, and are… well, they are either playing or are wandering around lost, I can’t really decide… But lying at their feet are fairy tales. That is interesting in of itself, but two of the vices especially intrigued me a little more.
One of them, a haggard women beggar, represents the vice of Poverty. I could probably go on for days about this subject, but really you’re probably already bored of reading this. So I’ll cut to the chase, at her feet were coins. Not statue coins, but real coins. Like ones I could have picked up and bought a loaf of bread with (really, I could have, there were enough there). This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. Not taking coins or buying bread. Not because I see a lot of poverty in Russia. But because I see a lot of giving. I don’t know who my target audience, but I’m assuming because the posts are in English that it would be Americans. Anyway, the principle applies to all humankind.
We don’t give enough.
I feel like I see a lot of giving here. I mean, sure, we give here and there in America… But do we really give? When I see how people do it here, I’m not so sure. Definitely something at least I need to work on. (see Romans 15:1)
The other statue represents a vice, of which I don’t think the children – our generation – are innocent. Indifference. This problem has reached epic proportions. It has grown from a vice passed from adult to child, but it is seemingly becoming an aspect of global culture. Children are brought up, ostensibly everywhere to not care about real life. Perhaps not by their parents, but by the internet, Xbox, and iTunes; for assuredly, children spend more of their waking hours plugged into such devices than interacting with people. We’re becoming more and more indifferent by the day. We don’t even have to put our fingers in our ears anymore, we have earbuds to do that for us. The sad things, we don’t even realize it… and if we do, we don’t realize it often enough. A member of our branch taught me the other day that in Russian you can say, “having bananas in your ears” instead of “having headphones in your ears.” I think the phrase is great, and I’m going to definitely start using it in English as well. So… Take the bananas out and start caring about life.
Again, I’m just as guilty as the next guy. I’m just saying, we could all step it up a notch.
As an example of me not stepping it up a notch, I’ll close with the story of the bad Samaritan. After Bolotnaya Ploshchad, Greg and I went to develop my film. Being the big dummy I am I didn’t bring along the address or any sort of useful information for finding the place I decided to develop the film. Thus, Greg and I wandered around for a bit. Whilst wandering, we passed a man who looked to be on the verge of death. There were others who passed him too, steering clear of him, and the gore he was vomiting up – all doing nothing to help. He was bleeding, and looked lost and confused. Both Greg and I wanted to help him, but had no idea what to do. Thinking of missionary days, I remember being told to avoid such situations as to avoid trouble. And that is what we did. Sure, we talked about it for a few moments. But soon enough, we were back to our chipper, old, American selves, the man lying on the side of the road in a puddle of blood already far behind us.
Then I stopped to think how terribly, horrifically wrong that is. Why hadn’t we done anything?! Why did we act so indifferently?! How could we not care so much as to call an ambulance! For heavens sake, who cares what would’ve happened to us; it is not about us anyway, how selfish of us to make such a situation about ourselves. This is not an adult’s vice passed down to us children. This is completely my vice and one that I need to change.
We need to help. We need to give. And we need to start caring.
As I was mulling this over on the metro ride home, we pulled up to Vorobyovy Gory, my personal favorite metro station. I was staring out the glass into the mostly melted Moskva, having one of those really deep self-inflection moments, when I realized why “Sparrow Hills” is my favorite of all metro stops. As I look out the window of the metro wagon, I get pulled out of where I am. Realistically, I’m in a tube full of people. But instead of the monotonous black out the windows, suddenly there is light – real light – which makes me forget where I am. While I’m looking out at nature, the metro starts up again without me noticing, and it takes me off guard every time as the light, the beauty, the reality, flashes suddenly back into darkness as we leave the station. It always jolts me and makes my eyes wig out. And every time, it leaves me wanting more light, more outside, more life, and I can’t wait to get to Ugo-Zapadnaya and to be outside.
I think life is a lot like that metro station. While a lot of people have bananas in their ears, we have to look for those moments of reality and hold onto them even when they disappear back into the darkness.
Hold on to them because they are what truly matter.