Book 2. Ringing cedars of Russia (1997)
Where are you, my guardian angel?
The chronicle of my life-story took me back to my child-hood. My reminiscences continued up to the point where I was playing in the sand with the country kids, and then broke off. At that moment my soul was overwhelmed with an inexplicable sense of alarm. Not a single event in my whole life aroused positive emotions or feelings comparable to those I experienced that morning after spending the night with Anastasia. Or with those that arose in me after she brought the rhythms of surrounding Nature in tune with the beating of my heart (I described this experience in the chapter “Touching Paradise”). But I considered these marvellous feelings to be something created in me by Anastasia — they weren’t my own. They were artificial, a gift from Anastasia. Involuntarily, I compared them with those of my previous life, and found no analogy whatsoever.
Again and again I hunted down recollections of my life, as though running a movie reel, backward and forward. Every-thing I saw was related to my efforts to get or achieve some-thing. Sure, I got what I wanted, one thing after another, but there was no great feeling of satisfaction. Instead, some new desire merely appeared. And the most recent years of my life, when those around me thought how splendidly everything was turning out for me, aroused an even greater feeling of confusion and chaos. The cars I had acquired, the women, the banquets, the gifts and congratulations I had received — all seemed empty and pointless.
I quickly got to my feet and said, with some irritation, ei-ther to myself or to Anastasia:
“There are none of these healing sensations in Man’s life! At least, not in mine. And I would say there are many lives where they can’t be found.”
Anastasia also rose to her feet and calmly observed:
“Then you should create them as quickly as possible.”
“ What do I need to create? Tell me, what?”
“First you must understand what holds the greatest meaning, or significance, for you. You have just been looking over your past life. But even with the opportunity to analyse it, to look at it objectively, as it were, you still were not able to notice what was really significant. You kept latching on to the usual values, as you saw them. Tell me the situations where you felt you came closest to a sense of happiness.”
“There were two situations, but each time something pre-vented me from feeling truly happy in them.”
“What kind of situations?”
“Back in the early days ofperestroika 1 managed to acquire a long-term lease on a steamship. This was the best passen-ger ship in the Western Siberian river fleet — the Mikhail Ka-linin.
‘After the lease agreement was drawn up, I went to the harbour and there she stood. What a beauty! I remember the first time I stood on the deck of my very own ship.”
‘And did your feelings of happiness greatly increase when you stood on the deck?”
“YDU know, Anastasia, our lives are filled with all sorts of problems. As soon as I had climbed aboard, I was met by the captain. We went to his cabin and had a bottle of champagne together. During our conversation the captain advised that all the water pipes needed cleaning at once, or the health authorities would not allow us to set sail. And there were other things he told me...”
‘And so, Vladimir, you immersed yourself in all the prob-lems and cares involved in the running of the ship.”
“Yes, that’s right. There were a lot of them.”
“It is inherent in the nature of artificially created matter and various mechanical devices, Vladimir, that they bring more problems than pleasures. Their benefit to Man is quite illusory”
“Well, I don’t happen to agree. Maybe in themselves these mechanical devices have problems — they need con-stant repair and maintenance. Still, they help us get a lot of things.”
“What, for example?”
“Genuine Love, Vladimir, could not possibly be under the control of artificially created objects. Even if you owned all the objects in the world, you would not be able, just with their help, to gain access to the true Love of even one woman.” “Well, you simply don’t know our women. You’re spinning theories, that’s all. I managed to get it.”
“What did you manage to get?”
“Love. I quite simply succeeded. There was one woman I loved a great deal. I loved her for many years. But she didn’t really want to go off with me anywhere alone. When I got my ship, however, I invited her aboard, and she accepted. Can you imagine how great that was?! Here we were sitting alone at the ship’s bar. There was champagne, first-class wine, candlelight, music — and nobody else around. Here we were alone in the empty bar on my ship. She was the only one there with me.
“I had the ship set sail without taking on any other pas-sengers, just so we could be alone. The ship proceeded down the river. There was music playing in the bar. I invited her to dance. Her figure was fantastic, especially her breasts. I hugged her tight, my heart was pounding for joy, and I kissed her on the lips!
“She didn’t run away, she even hugged me back. Do you see? There she was right beside me, and I could touch her, and kiss her. All this was because of the ship, and you say it can only bring problems.”
‘And then, Vladimir, what happened?”
“Please try to remember, anyway.”
“I tell you, it was nothing important.”
“Can I tell you what happened there, on the ship, between you and that young woman?”
“You can try.”
“You had a lot to drink. You made a deliberate effort to drink as much as possible. Then you put the keys to your cabin — your luxury apartment — on the table in front of her, and you yourself went down to the lower decks. You slept almost twenty-four hours in the cramped crew’s quarters. And do you know why?”
“The moment came when you noticed a strange expression on the face of that beloved young woman of yours — a preoccupied smile. Intuitively, even subconsciously, you realised that she, your beloved, was thinking how happy she would be if only it were her own beloved that was sitting across from her in this bar, instead of Megre. Your precious girl was dreaming of someone else, someone she really liked. She fantasised that it was he, and not you, who was master of the ship. You were at the mercy of inert matter, to which you had tied your living feelings and aspirations, and were choking them to death.”
“Don’t go on, Anastasia!” I pleaded. “These recollections aren’t happy ones for me. In any case, the ship did play its role. It was thanks to the ship that you and I met.”
“The happenings of the present are the result of previous feelings and impulses of the soul, and it is only they that de-termine the future. And it is only their momentum, only the beating of their wings, that is clearly reflected in the heavenly mirrors. And only their impulses and aspirations will be re-flected in happenings here on the Earth.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked in some bewilder-ment.
“Our meeting may well be the culmination of many aspirations of the soul on both your part and mine — perhaps on the part of our immediate or even more distant forebears. Perhaps it came from a single impulse of the cherry tree growing in the garden of your country home. Only not the ship.” “What has the cherry tree in my garden got to do with it?” “In all your many glances back at your life, you failed to pay any attention to this cherry tree and your feelings connected with it, yet those feelings have played a leading role in your life in recent years. The Universe did not react to your ship. Just think, what could a primitive, run-down material device, incapable of either thinking or restoring itself, possibly mean to the Universe?
“But the cherry tree... a little Siberian cherry tree, which you could not even make room for in your recollections, ex-cited the cosmic expanses and changed the course of time and history — and not only yours and mine. Because it is a living being, and, like all living beings, has an inseparable connection with creation as a whole.”