the growth of the soul

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died recently. When I heard of it, I remembered some lines of his that I quoted in my journal years ago:

Long periods of well-being and comfort are in general dangerous to all. After such prolonged periods, weak souls become incapable of weathering any kind of trial. They are afraid of it. Yet it is a fact that difficult trials and sufferings can facilitate the growth of the soul. I know there is a widespread feeling that if we highly value suffering this is masochism. On the contrary, it is a significant bravery when we respect suffering and understand what burdens it places on our soul.

I think this is true. Though I suppose what was important to him was not suffering so much as "the growth of the soul." I agree this is important, but it seems to me that not many of us achieve this growth by desiring it directly. We desire something (or someone) else with great passion and are willing to suffer personally for it. And if our desire is love then our soul grows in the intensity of that love.

When this passionate love is lacking, we fall back on the meager motivations of avoiding trials and suffering, establishing security for ourselves, and arranging our comforts. This, I think, is what I have most despised (is that the right word? maybe...) in those I usually categorize as "middle class." An apparent all-consuming concern with the trivialities of comfort and social convention and a cringing avoidance of pain. Not even having the intense human struggles of survival in a hostile environment, which many people in our world face. It's debatable whether the "long periods of well-being and comfort" are the causes of a weak soul or the symptoms of it.

But I think what I'm most disappointed to find missing in people is a passionate love that makes them forget themselves and risk all. Or suffer all. That is the force that shapes great souls. Those without it seem to me to be pitiable, or else they stir my anger, because they seem to be wasting the life they have been given. And the Love.