“Truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
While it is empowering and ennobling to striving for truth, it’s important to remember that truth is also bitter. Truth requires attention, it requires commitment, it requires change. These aren’t always things we want to give in our pursuit of a mission driven life, but they are essential.
Where do we begin, then? What is the truth? And where is it to be found?
In 1945 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a loyal communist officer in the Russian army. When he made derogatory comments about Stalin in a private letter, he was immediately arrested and sentenced to 8 years hard labor in a labor camp. Over time, as he came to see the countless lies he had been told, he became determined to understand the truth and share it with the world.
His life is a legacy of sacrifice and suffering in his relentless pursuit to expose the truth about communism. That’s why, if someone can tell us about the incredibly destructive power of lies and the amazingly liberating power of the truth, Solzhenitsyn can.
As you dive deeper into the 7 Laws of Life Mission and seek to prepare for and discover your own life mission, Solzhenitsyn has invaluable things to teach you about the empowering but also the bitter nature of truth.
Join Audrey this week as she shares Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s life and legacy, increasing our courage and conviction to follow in his footsteps and cling to truth no matter the cost.
Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast.
2:26 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – Childhood
4:02 War & Imprisonment
6:55 Exile & Writing
7:29 Reconversion, Cancer and Fame
9:41 Assassination Attempt & Exile Again
12:15 Back in Russia
13:19 Harvard and “A World Split Apart”
16:18 Truth Tells Us We Need to Change
22:00 Why I Wouldn’t Recommend You
26:35 Truth, Governments, and Humility
30:09 Principle-Centered Homes
Quotes from this episode:
John 8:32 – “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” ~The Holy Bible, King James Version
“A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy and nothing can stop him.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“Everything you add to the truth subtracts from the truth.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“It’s a universal law– intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“Do not pursue what is illusory – property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade and can be confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life – don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“My wish for you… is that your skeptic-eclectic brain be flooded with the light of truth.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“To stand up for truth is nothing. For truth, you must sit in jail.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“The meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering but in the development of the soul.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“Harvard’s motto is “Veritas.” Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion still lingers of knowing it and leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter. There is some bitterness in my speech today, too. But I want to stress that it comes not from an adversary but from a friend.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society…from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man’s noblest impulses.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.
Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“The press can both simulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus we may see terrorists heroized, or secret matters, pertaining to one’s nation’s defense, publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: “everyone is entitled to know everything.” But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. ” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“…many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of not being up to the level of maturity attained by mankind. A number of such critics turn to socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“But should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering, our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just mentioned are extremely saddening.
A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger. ” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Books from this episode: