"European Russia 2006" story # 8

Staryy Oskol, Russia           August 17, 2006

The Russian word for "god" is "BOG." The Russian word for "rich" is "BOGATYY."
     I now believe that a belief in God necessitates selfishness. God is a higher being, and if a higher being exists, then that means we beings are not all equal. If we are not all equal, then we are not all the same. If we are not all the same, then we each have our own "ego-personality." If a person accepts that his "ego-personality" is his own and therefore precious and special, then, I think, he would often value his own well-being above the good of the community.
     And the belief in God is the acceptance of a more-powerful being. Acceptance means, "it is okay." Thus, theists think they (if men) can be rich and powerful, while women and poor men may allow themselves to be dominated.

I would like to pose the theory that, if Igor, my Russia host, had cared about me, things would've been better for both of us. He'd invited me to stay with his family when I came to Russia, but, then, upon seeing I wasn't like he expected me to be, he seemed to resent that invitation.
     He did help me out with a lot. This included: a place to stay and food for seven weeks; Russian films I could watch; and the occasional Russian-language conversation; and a few other things.
     Engineer Igor was one of those rare beneficiaries of the new capitalism. He lived in one of the exorbitantly large and art-less houses of the rich. In the house was a loud big-screen tv, expensive white furniture, and an air between them that seemed to lack life. It seemed his family was trying so hard to leave their common countrymen behind that they'd forgotten there's more to life than how much you have.
     White, thick-bellied Igor, who wore bland polo shirts and big, square glasses and a bird nose, didn't take an interest in or listen to me nor my dreams nor my goals. When I had questions about our town, he was unwilling to answer them. It was awkward to live with him. And he always had a discouraging word - often, "To yest risk." (That's a risk.) - in response to my plans to find work.

"Riskovat mala je riskovat vela." - a Slovakian proverb (To risk little is to risk a lot.)

"a man who is cautious in his youth can't be too intelligent in his old age" - Jack Kerouac

In fairness to Igor, there's no law saying he has to care about others. He can go on in his life where his best friend is his subscription to "Denge" (Money) magazine, if he wants.
     But, I, personally, care about people. I especially care about people who have dreams - dreams which don't hurt others. I believe that whenever any of us achieves her dreams, it's good for humanity. And I believe that my dreams, and my actions while living at Igor's, were pure and good.
     But, after four weeks and while I was still waiting to see if I was going to have a class to teach in the language institute, Igor said I couldn't stay with him for his offered three months if I wasn't working. This came after weeks of him telling me not to work. I understood he didn't want me around, so I canceled my other realizable work plans for his town, and I began preparing to sell travel stories in Moscow.
     Three weeks went by. On Saturday of the final week I stayed with Igor, after I'd come home at midnight from hanging out with Nadezda and Elina, he and I sat down to drink vodka and had our longest discussion.
     We each drank three shots of the high-quality vodka. I cringed from the taste. After talking about regional politics, he revealed it's his dream for his fifteen-year-old, Ruslan, to go to unversity in the States. A good dream. But, I wondered if it was the son's dream or the father's. Rusland had told me he dreams of playing professional football (soccer) - a silly dream, maybe - but one he should feel comfortable telling his father about.
     We swallowed fourth shots. Igor told me why he'd invited me to his house:
     "Proch ty dumaesh chto ty u nas? Ty zdes, potomu chto Albina me skazala chto ty filosof. No, ty nyet filosof. Ty tolko idesh s tvoye devushky a imesh seks." (Why do you think you're at our house? You're here because my sister said you're a philosopher. But, you're not a philosopher. You just go with girls and have sex.)
     Wait a minute! I corrected him. I'm celibate; I don't have sex.
     This amazed Igor. He changed his mind and said I was a philosopher. He asked, how was it possible to not have sex? Then, he said, "Ty menya obmanuesh?" (Are you deceiving me?) Then, he said I'm a "Messiah" and asked if I was ready to die on the cross.
     We suffered through our fifth shots of vodka. We went to sleep at three a.m.
     I didn't have the slightest hangover in the morning. But, Igor's and my relationship hadn't improved.
     I left the house a few days later. I'd been unable to secure a place to stay in Moscow, unfortunately, and so I had no good options of where to go. I wished Igor had helped me in my search for independence from him. (My Russia plans had become dependent on his invitation when I lost my backpack in Romania. Poor Russians didn't have the means to help me.) His help would've been invaluable, and it probably would've led to me leaving his house sooner than I did.
     I hitchhiked two-hundred kilometers east, got scared while sleeping in two countryside guys' cabin, and decided the next day I couldn't stay in Russia. On my way back to Europe, I slept in Igor's family's house again.
     And in the morning, Igor greeted me with:
     "Dzastin, proch ty zdes? Ty odeshel. My byli rad. Ty muzshin?"
     (Justin, why are you here? You left. We were happy. Are you a man?)
     Russian men, especially the thick-bellied rich, many of whom are in the mafia, typically think life is a competition for dominance. Obtain a lot of money ... girls exist only to have sex with ... wives do the housework ... if others are poor and live meagerly, it's because they're weak ...
     I left without saying much. Igor wouldn't have cared about my response, anyway: If a "man" is someone who seeks to dominate others, then I'm not a man. I'm a "human," and I believe in using my strengths to help humanity. And in the ways I'm weak - money, a place to stay, technical skills, agricultural skills, etc. - I expect others to help me.
     If Igor would've cared about me, things would've gone better for everyone in his household. And Igor's house was a microcosm for society.

     The Russian word for "cross" - undoubtedly associated with Christ - is "KREST." The Russian word for "peasant" is "KRESTYANIN."
     I believe in Christ the person, but I'm an atheist. I believe Christ cared about humanity. That's why he was poor.

- peace and love,
Modern Oddyseus

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