Forgiveness is the next topic we are to discuss with our guest. The Forman’s Amadeus has it that Salieri can’t forgive God for blessing Mozart with the talent Salieri so desperately prays for. And Mozart doesn’t even want this blessing, in the eyes of Salieri he is but a drunkard and idler. Have you ever witnessed a mismatch like that?
I don’t know how the Church treats cases like that, but they are quite commonplace in the arts. Wagner is yet again a wonderful example. He was a brute of awful temper and a splendid genius. So a great man doesn’t have to be a nice one. In Dostoevsky’s Demons, Stepan Verkhovensky puts it best saying that all the best Russians are gamblers, drunkards or pigs, and that is okay. Dostoevsky himself was a gambler.
He wasn’t a pleasant person to talk to.
Let’s move on from him. Beethoven, Yesenin and van Gogh were very unpleasant as well, so this incompatibility you’ve asked me about is absolutely standard in the arts.
How do you reconcile this with the idea of talent being a God’s gift?
I doubt that artistic talent comes from God. I’m not saying that it comes from Satan, but it always seems to have side effects if it occurs in abundance.
To balance things out in a way?
Talent always has a steep price in our world, so you may be right. That is why many great artists have a hard lot. And often the blame for this lot is theirs.
What we’ve just discussed might be referred to as the Mozart problem. But is the Salieri problem something that you come across a lot? Do people have hard time forgiving others for being gifted?
Envy is a very important driver of today’s world in general, just as much as the humility is not. It is fascinating what a stimulus envy is in the industrial consumerist society of today. Many do phenomenal things for no other reason but envy. And it is undoubtedly disgusting. Which is peculiar is that Pushkin and Forman contributed greatly to popularising the theory of Salieri killing Mozart, although in reality Salieri didn’t do that and didn’t need to. But the idea behind this story is a very correct observation on the nature of humans. It is hard to get by without envy, especially in arts. And something has to be done about it.
Do you mean that envy is unavoidable or that it is a natural and helpful sentiment?
For people who get into arts, be it theatre, orchestral, pop music or anything else, it’s very tough, because it all means performing for others. Of course, envy is key to success in the arts and you have to channel this emotion properly. Then you are to achieve great success. And when the opposite happens, the result often is self-destruction.
Proper channelling is when you make yourself work more?
Yes. You envy a person and start saying to yourself: “I’ll get him.” Own him.
Did you experience it yourself?
Can’t say that I am an envious person. But it is hard to separate envy from rivalry and competition, because both of these always have at least something to do with envy. When you compete with someone, envy is inevitable.
Have you seen the Konchalovsky’s 2019 film called Sin?
Lev Karakhan and I, we discussed the movie’s ending recently. In the ending, Michelangelo says: “I’ve been seeking God all my life, but what I’ve sought is human. My works are admired, but they are not used for prayer.” To my mind it seemed to be a confession, to which Karakhan’s reply was to ask to whom Michelangelo might be making this confession? It certainly is not God, because Dante, his idol, is there. Lev believes that this is an example of Parnassian faith, of an artist confessing to another artist. What do you make of that?
A tough question. I’m sure that Michelangelo has nothing to do with it. This is Konchalovsky’s original idea, you can trace it back to Andrey Rublev.
The idea is that the Western art took that turning at one point rejecting religion. I wouldn’t say that this is Konchalovsky’s idea, Losev wrote about it as well. The idea of art embracing corporal instead of spiritual is quite common place.
Sure. The secularization of art and the de-churching of art, it really began with the times of Giotto, Simone Martini, these two were the first in the 13th century. But in the end, it was art that took over from church and religion in general, because the concept of theatre being a “religion of art” appeared in the 19th century. In fact, Wagner’s Parsifal is a replacement for liturgy. It’s the best example of art assuming the functions of the Church. Calling a theatre or a concert hall a “Temple of Art” is not without reason. Stage is an ambo with a bishop or a priest being replaced by a great artist like Paganini and others. So art has assumed the functions of religion, and it has become a religion itself. And then if we take rock, this is religion in reverse. For example, Black Sabbath is openly satanist. But in any case, the arts took the place of religion with the latter paling into insignificance.
But art and culture in general come to existence as a religion. So what you are describing here is a take two of sorts with a different emphasis?
We tend to mix up asceticism and religion. Religion originally came out of asceticism. There was no Church to speak of. Mary of Egypt, for instance, had lived for 90 years without talking or confessing to anybody, without receiving communion. That’s what asceticism was about originally. Then it started turning into a religion, evolving institutions and losing itself in that religion. Maybe the last citadels of asceticism are God’s fools existing outside Church and doing terrible things. As religion had absorbed asceticism back in the day, the art absorbed religion. Now art is the new religion which has little to do with the religion of old.
Mr. Martynov, I have a personal question for you now. Is it harder for you to forgive or to ask for forgiveness?
I reckon the latter is tougher.
Asking for forgiveness?
Yes, I think that it’s harder on a spiritual level.
When was the last time you asked someone for forgiveness?
I can’t recall. I mean I often apologize before my colleagues and others, but it’s not too serious. Then there is my wife whom I ask for forgiveness from time to time.
Oh, of course.
Nobody else comes to mind. There are of course confessions, but that’s different.
The reasoning behind these questions is simple. Our show has not been on the air for long, but we already have about 100 interviews under the belt. And I got an impression from these interviews that forgiveness is the hardest topic of all five. Most people say that love is the toughest topic, as it is very sublime and spiritual. But I reckon it is even harder to talk about forgiveness than to talk about love. Some think they forgive lightly, others hold the opposite view, but we seldom think about forgiveness in a more profound manner. Forgiveness is the toughest to handle.
Couldn’t agree more. The thing is even when we forgive there is still a grudge in our subconsciousness. As they say: “God will forgive you, but I won't.”
I believe that sometimes even when we think that we forgive we actually don’t. It has to do with the extent to which we can hold grudges, and we might not even realise how well we remember the ill that we’ve suffered from others. We do it so well because most the grudges are held subconsciously and without any control. We think that we forgive, but then something reminds us of the ill that has been done to us, and thought about it will stay with us for a very long time.
Love is the last notion we are to discuss. Do you remember a frequently quoted line from the St. Paul’s Hymn to Love which goes “the faith of love never fails.” What do you make of that quote?
It’s hard for me to discuss it in the same way St. Paul does it. What I know from my proper experience of falling in love as a young man is that once you commit yourself to a person it is impossible to see fault with them. I am very ill-equipped to talk about some sort of Godly love, but my take on it is that you may see it as unclasping of hands, total commitment and confidence. Love cannot be cautious, it’s either all-in or nothing. That is why, in my opinion, the faith of love never fails.
So love wouldn’t tolerate critical thinking?
If it would tolerate it, it would not be love. Being critical presumes distancing, reflectiveness and reasoning. Love can’t have that. If you are being critical, you are not in love. Love is like faith or hope. How can you be critical of hope? Faith, hope and love are one, and you can’t engage with any of these critically. How can you be critical of something you believe in or of something you hope for?
And what about parental love, should it not be reasonable?
It’s a different phenomena. What I mean by love is a burning feeling that, in the words of Dante, “moves the Sun and other stars”. Parental love has to do with economy, politics, education. It doesn’t exclude the love we’ve just discussed, but the love is not the only component here. Love as is resembles glowing avalanche. Once it starts freezing, it becomes an issue. It is not love in its purest form any more. That’s some kind of behaviour guided by a shadow of love and nothing more.
You talked about the love of youth. But others believe that the real love between a man and a woman appears much later. Young love is very immature, don’t you think?
Given that love is such a complex topic that may be approached from a number of perspectives, it might well be the case. However, for every thing there is a season, and each age has an appropriate activity. This is also what Christianity says. For one thing, loving is no business for old people. At least the kind of loving we’ve discussed here. Of course, father John (Krestiankin) and father Nikolay both have love for humanity, but this is a different thing. What I described was a love experienced by youth, a very human kind of love. The love I saw in father John (Krestiankin) and father Nikolay is something unique. Something I do not deal in.
That should be hard to put into words, I guess.
That cannot be done. You can only experience it. And as soon as you experience this feeling, it disappears. What we mean by love is an outpouring that is very fleeting and hard to preserve. So when elders manage to preserve it, it is only because they have a very strong foundation that helps them do it. For us, ordinary people, it is nearly impossible to preserve love. By the way, the Divine Revelations are also outbursts that are very hard to preserve in their purity. When time passes, all you have is a fleeting memory of such Revelation that helps you a great deal.
Does it help in art, though? I was quite surprised to hear from you today that you get your inspiration from fighting despair. Isn’t love the source of inspiration?
The discourse about that phenomena has been…
Yes. All that stuff about God being Love. It’s clear that love is behind my art, but the way people talk about it makes me sick. I don’t want to be in the room with those who say these things.
But why, Mr. Martynov?
The reason is simple. I know well that all of this is rubbish. If someone, a composer, for instance, thinks that God acts through them, and they are not a profiteer, they are either idiotic or stupid.
Is it the same with writers?
Oh, let’s not talk about them. This is a very particular breed of people. I’ve known a number of writers, and their confusion can only be paralleled with that of the composers who are the most confused human beings.
What is their motivation?
Writing is an industry. As long as there is potential readership, there is a demand. And if there is demand, the suppliers provide what is asked of them with a varying degree of success, feeling quite alright.
But there should be an overlap somewhere, take Dostoevsky. As far as I remember, he was also writing because he needed money. But it didn’t make his work less talented.
We get back to the idea of a better time that has come and gone. There used to be great people who created great works, and now there are none. It doesn’t mean that there is no demand for books and there should be no writers. There are those who honestly say that they are in it for money, success, or popularity. There is nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with a wish reminding that of blogger who want a million subscribers. But it is wrong for writers to say that they are God’s devices, or that they write for the happinesses of human kind.
Are they lying or being stupid?
They are either stupid or lying to themselves.
Mr. Martynov, let’s get back to the idea of words being worn out. We’ve touched upon it a bit today. Karakhan stated in a recent interview he gave me that for him love is opening up and exposing yourself. How would you define love?
I don’t disagree with Karakhan, but love is not only that. There is zero doubt that love is about opening up and exposing yourself. But these are not key traits for defining love. For me, love is something fleeting and inapproachable. Love is an outburst you try to preserve for the rest of your life once it occurs. The success of your life depends on how strong your memory of that outburst is and how well you cherish it.
There is a chance that there will be only one such outburst?
Have you experienced more than one outburst on your way?
Yes, fortunately I have. I would prefer not to list them all here. Suffice to say that it has to do with my Church-related experience, especially the very introduction to the Church life. The first years in Church filled with talking to elders are probably the happiest years of my life. Nothing came close to it later. My home-task of sorts is to keep the memory of that time with me, so that this memory would help me to live through all that is happening around us. And some have missed out on these outbursts entirely.
Thank you for sharing this with us, Mr. Martynov. To conclude our talk, I’d like to ask you something. I think I have an idea of how you might answer it, but the question is still worth asking. Berdyaev once basically equated sainthood with artistic genius. What he said verbatim was as follows: “In the creative ecstasy of the genius is there not perhaps another kind of sainthood before God, another type of religious action, equal in value to the canonical sainthood? I deeply believe that before God the genius of Pushkin, who in the eyes of men seemed to lose his own soul, is equal to the sainthood of Seraphim, who was busy saving his. The way of genius is another type of religious way, equal in value in dignity with the way of the saint.” Would you agree or disagree with this statement?
I strongly disagree with it.
It appears ridiculous to me.
So the genius goes a separate way?
Talking of genius in today’s world seems silly to me. Berdyaev lived in the Silver Age, I can get that…
Well, we are talking genius generally, not only today.
The equation might have been valid back in Berdyaev’s day, but it seems preposterous now.
What do you make of the example he draws?
People may agree with it, but I don’t.
Thank you for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
It was Mr. Martynov, a wandering man. Join us next week so that we could draw a parsuna of another contemporary.