Each afternoon I bring out the Kindle and read from the 200 or so books I've downloaded for free from the Internet, mostly from the Project Gutenberg web site. This week I finished Tolstoy's novel Anna Karenina."
I'd read that novel before, back in my university days, but this second reading was different. Earlier, mostly I'd enjoyed the story line, and learning how people thought and lived in Russia during the story's time period. With this second reading, besides admiring the pure artistry Tolstoy displayed in bringing all his characters' stories together so nicely, mostly I was struck by how generous the author was to the people in his story.
His characters often had serious faults and sometimes behaved in ways we might not like, but each was treated with dignity, and one could see how a person might turn out behaving like that. Even the conflicting urges of a hunting dog were examined, a dog caught between his need to do what his nose told him to do, and the command of the master, who obviously couldn't smell the quarry just inches away.
This generosity of a great author's spirit is something I like to think about. For, in my experience, it seems that any true genius clearly sees the world's irrationality, and people's hypocrisies, self deceptions and hurtful behaviors, but also he or she understands that such weaknesses and flaws usually are the consequences of past misfortunes, of present difficulties, of an unfortunate genetic predisposition, or maybe they are as they are because that's just how personalities form, with some features maturing faster than others, or maybe never maturing at all.
A pretty feature of this line of thinking is that it seems to apply to much more than just the human condition. For example, it seems to apply to the whole Universe.
In terms of the Universe, the genius with the generous spirit is the Universal Creative Impulse responsible for the Universe in the first place. This Universal Creative Impulse, like Tolstoy, artfully creates a reality that on the one hand is a tempestuously gorgeous blossoming of a hugely diverse community of diverse actors, while on the other hand the Universe's story line is complicated by such features as galaxies disappearing into black holes, wandering asteroids that bump into things and, closer to home, diseases, extinctions, and the outrageous fact that thinking, sentient beings often fail to live up to their potentials.
In that context, the Universal Creative Impulse's generosity of spirit is affirmed whenever a mind that is part of the blossoming Universe takes stock of its situation, judges the whole setup as beautiful, and decides to live on a little longer.