Translation:What I Believe/Introduction
I have lived fifty five years, thirty five of them (save the first fourteen or fifteen) as a nihilist, a real nihilist -- not a socialist or a revolutionary, as the word is habitually understood, but as a man without any belief.
Five years ago I was converted to the teaching of Christ -- and suddenly my life turned around. I didn't want what I used to want, and began to want what I never wanted. What seemed to be good began to seem base, and what seemed base began to seem good. It happened to me the same way it happens when a person who sets out on an errand suddenly along the way decides it's a needless one, and turns around to go home. Everything that used to be on my right was now on my left, and everything on my left was on my right. My longing to be as far as possible from home turned into a longing to be as near it as possible. The direction of my life, what I wanted, changed; good and evil switched places. And it all happened because I understood Christ's teaching in a new way.
I don't mean to ellucidate Christ's teaching; I only want to show how I came to understand its simplest, clearest, surest essence, addressed to everyone, and how what I understood turned my spirit inside out and gave me peace and happiness.
I don't mean to ellucidate Christ's teaching. I would only just like to keep others from trying to ellucidate it.
All Christian churches always admitted that people, unequal in education and intellect -- smart and foolish -- are equal before God; that God's truth is within everyone's reach. Christ even said that to reveal to the unwise what is hidden from the wise is the will of God.
Not everyone can understand the deepest annals of dogmatics, homiletics, patristics, liturgics, hermeneutics, apologetics, etc. etc., but everyone can and must understand what Christ told millions of simple, unwise people, those still living and those already dead. Well, the things he said to all those simple people, who had no opportunity to turn for explanations of his teaching to Paul, Clement, Chrysthosom and to others -- it's those things that I didn't understand, and now do; and I want to tell them to all of you.
A thief believed in Christ on the cross and was saved. Would it really be unhealthy, would it be to the damage of anyone, if the thief hadn't died on the cross but had come off it and told people how he believed in Christ?
Like the thief on the cross I believed in Christ's teaching and was saved. The comparison isn't far-fetched, no, but the best way of expressing my state of despair and terror about life and death, in which I had been, and the state of peace and happiness in which I am now.
Like the thief, I knew that I was living the wrong way and I saw that most people around me were living that way also. Quite like the thief I knew that I am unhappy, that I am suffering and that around me people are also unhappy and suffer, and I couldn't see a way out except to die. And yet a force held me, like the thief upon the cross, fast attached to this life of suffering and evil. And just where the thief stood, on the verge of the terrible darkness of death after senseless suffering and the evil of life -- there I also stood.
In all of this I was absolutely like the thief, but we were different in this: he was dying, and I was still alive. The thief could believe that his salvation was beyond the grave; I couldn't -- I still had to live here. And -- I didn't understand this life of mine; it seemed to me a nightmare. Then suddenly I heard Christ's words, and understood them, and life and death didn't seem like evil anymore. Where I had been feeling only despair, suddenly I came to feel joy and happiness on account of life, and death did not threaten them.
Can it, in fact, be to the damage of anyone if I show how it happened to me?