Book No. 46 – The Bronze Horseman

1 Aug

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons is an extraordinary book. Not only is it well written, but each character’s story is well developed and fascinating. The book is about two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha, who share a small apartment with their family. Their world is thrown completely off course when Hitler’s army betrays their treaty with Stalin and attacks Russia. Not only is this book enriched with the history of the war, it also takes you on a magical, emotional, and riveting journey. Like any book worth reading, there is a love story – both innocent and fierce. Tatiana meets Alexander, and officer in the Red Army. He is strong and oozes confidence, but has a mysterious and painful past. Tatiana and Alexander are drawn to each other like magnets and it seems as though nothing could break their bond of love. The war brings upon them starvation, desperation, and terrible living conditions during the coldest winter they have ever had. Testing the bond of friendship, love and family, the war will show the essence of who each of them is.

In reading this book I was reminded of a very important thing. The hardest thing to do in this world is live in it and the only way to get by is by leaning on each other. Each other is all we really have in this world. I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers and I’ve never passed up the opportunity to help brighten someone else’s day. It’s really the little things that get us through the day, and reading a story like this – so intricately and beautifully wound with pain, suffering and resilience makes me very grateful for what I have.

Something I have learned over the past year of my life is that humans have an insane capability for resilience and tenacity. Even in our darkest of moments, we have an inexplicable tenacity within us that never really goes away. The world is a tough place- it will break the best of us. I’ve always been the type of person to believe that everything we do, and don’t do, matter. Every action we take causes a series of chain reactions, each with their own consequences, influencing other peoples lives. But lately, I’ve been pondering over this question in particular. Do we change the world or does the world change us? I’m not quite sure. Perhaps, it’s a little bit of both. An optimist would most likely respond that we change the world whereas, a pessimist or as the pessimist likes to call himself, “a realist” would probably disagree, saying that in fact it’s the other way around and the world changes us.

Up until recently I would have held strong to the belief that we in fact change the world and anybody is capable of making a difference on this earth, no matter how big or small. Over the past year however, I have seen first hand how the world can change a person. Maybe not necessarily the world, but the circumstances in which life throws our way. And those circumstances have changed me dramatically, but I don’t think I will every fully give up believing that I can make a difference in this world. What do you believe?

Another great theme of this book is the paradox of love and the tyranny of guilt. Tatiana, the young girl who falls in love with her sisters soldier boyfriend struggles with these two themes throughout the entire book. Mother Teresa said that the paradox of love is that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. This statement stands truthful in relation to The Bronze Horseman. Tatiana and Alexander love each other so much that it causes them almost more pain than it’s worth, but eventually all the pain and suffering leads them to happiness and a love they had only ever dreamed of before. The tyranny of guilt is a curious thing. Guilt eats at all of us and if we let it, it will eat away every ounce of happiness we are capable of possessing. Guilt is an anchor on so many of us, holding us back from liberation and life. Such is the case with Tatiana and Alexander in this book. This is a theme we can all relate to, I believe – I know I can. To chase your own happiness and possibly hurt others in the process or to suppress your own wants and needs to appease those around you? Which of these two actions in the least destructive? I’m not quite sure. One leaves you with an immense amount of guilt and possible baggage whereas, the other leaves you chained and closeted in a life that is not truly your own, but ruled by the desires of the people in your life. To live your life for yourself no matter who gets hurt along the way? Or to live your life for others ensuring their happiness and forsaking your own?

One of my favorite authors, Ayn Rand, has said that living a selfish life is the only way to be sure that your life is your own, and nobody else’s. “Self-sacrifice? But it is precisely the self that cannot and must not be sacrificed.” Sacrificing your own desires, wants and needs, will only lead you to unhappiness. Had Tatiana been selfish and told her sister that her and Alexander were in love from day one, she would have been so much happier much sooner and she would have avoided much unnecessary suffering.

It’s a difficult thing to do. To live your life for yourself, and nobody else. I think however, it is something we should all strive for. This is the very reason, I have always said that I don’t think I want to have children. Because I am selfish and when you have a child you can’t be selfish. Having a husband and kids limits you greatly and somewhere along the path of domestication you stop living life for yourself and begin living it for your family. It’s a tragedy in a sense, but also a gift, depending on how you look at it. To live a life that is truly your own — a grand idea, but is it truly attainable? Not so sure.

In any case, I will leave you all with this quote to remind you that happiness does not come from what others perceive you to be and it does not come from making your parents proud of you, or being able to make a lot of money. Happiness can only come from one person, and that person is, you.

“Listen to what is being preached today. Look at everyone around us. You’ve wondered why they suffer, why they seek happiness and never find it. If any man stopped and asked himself whether he’s ever held a truly personal desire, he’d find the answer. He’d see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men. He’s not really struggling even for material wealth, but for the second-hander’s delusion – prestige. A stamp of approval, not his own. He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded. He can’t say about a single thing: ‘This is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbors gape at me’. Then he wonders why he’s unhappy.”

xo

TJ

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