Many consider Anton Chekhov to be the second most famous writer in the world. According to an online movie database IMDb, Chekhov is second only to Shakespeare in terms of movie adaptations. Chekhov lived a vibrant life full of paradoxes. He had a religious education, but ended up being a struggling orthodox and later even an atheist. Chekhov was a medical doctor but refused to take money from the people he treated. He started writing only to make money and somehow ended up being one of the most famous writers ever. The plays he wrote were booed off stage only to be admired and cherished later.
Chekhov is also very different from any other Russian classical author in his adamant refusal to incorporate and allow any politics in his writings. He was criticized and condemned for the lack of political, social standing in his works. Yet, he never gave up and never changed. Chekhov was concerned that politics would obscure our view of the souls of his characters and prevent us from seeing who the characters truly were, He was convinced that because of politics we would lose our ability to establish an empathetic connection to the pain, suffering and joys of the characters.
I think Chekhov was right. I have observed the society, both here and in Armenia, becoming extremely polarized by recent political events to the point of brink. The great symbol of democracy, the U.S. presidential election, which is called to unite, heal and bring us all together regardless of our ethnic, religious, socio-economic differences, became a medium that divides, separates and wounds us. This great symbol of freedom, instead of being a reminder and a celebration of our unity in diversity, somehow degraded into level name-calling and labeling millions of people who hold a different opinion and political stand.
Some of the social media posts I have seen recently, quite frankly are frightening – people attacking and being assaulted, casting heavy and unjustified judgments. We somehow managed to reduce the self-worth, the richness and the beauty of a human being to their political stand. This is a tragedy and exactly why Chekhov refrained from and objected to politics in literature. Politics became a dark blanket obscuring our view of the inner world of the person in front of us. We lose our ability to connect, understand and see who they truly are, what they feel and experience.
Today, more than ever as Christians and children of light, we need to lift up and promote life and culture of love, tolerance, forgiveness and empathy. Today, more than ever, we should consider running our lives through the Chekhov checklist in order to see and establish if our political stand, the values and views we project are rooted in the Christian teaching of unconditional love or are they blocking and obscuring our ability to see, to love, to forgive the person on the opposite side of the political spectrum. The Gospel of John tells us that ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son’ (John 3:16). God did not simply love those who were holy and good, agreed with him or accepted him, but the entire world which included people who rejected, disagreed, betrayed and crucified him. We are called and invited today to love and embrace life and the world we live in in the same exact fashion by becoming instruments of divine, unconditional and healing love.