A white bear in China, brotherly love, and Fyodor Dostoyevskij (posted by Ulla Hvejsel)

“Try and set yourself the task, not to think of a white bear, and you will see that, the cursed thing comes to mind every minute.”

This was written by Fyodor Dostoyevskij in “Winter Notes on Summer Impressions”, a critical report of Dostoyevskijs encounters in western Europe, where he had travelled to consult western doctors on his epilepsi.” (this sentence has since then become an iconic psychiatric example of the uncontrollable mind)

Dostoyevskij reproached the selfcontradictory western notions of brotherhood and of liberty, that did not seem to him to go well together, and it does seem plausible that: liberty to carry out what is on ones mind, will eventually impede the liberties of ones brother.

However, if this mind also has the happiness of on ones brother on it, then we may not have these logical difficulties with understanding them in the same revolutionary sentence, but Westerners, Dostoyevskij felt, did not possess the mind, the tradition and ability to have that, so for the sake of brotherly love, the freedom of a westerner, would have to be a selfdelusional, freedom from the mind, rather than a freedom to carry it out and speak it. In other words: for brotherly love a westerner will have to learn the freedom to “not think of the white bear “.

For the sake of brotherly love, I will follow Dostoyevskijs method, and set myself the task of getting the gruesome white bear out of my mind. When it is out, it will travel with me, from Copenhagen to China, where I, like Dostoyevskij, am travelling for some other purpose. We will nevertheless, hope for a succesful biproduct of insight, and we will regularly share our progress on this site.

In 1862, Dostoyevskij had to apologize his small empirical grounds for analysis, and this bear will probably have to learn to apologize too: First of all for the lack of full knowledge, as it will only have too short a time and too little a geographical span to know everything about an enormous place, and secondly for it’s naturally crude behavior that it is still struggling to control.

However, in it’s frock of violent grandeur, the white bear will go out of it’s own mind, to try and learn and understand, about it’s famous vegetarian brothers; the great bears of China, and from it’s similarly huge bear perspective make an attempt at the impossible task of sorting out what this gigantic place, that seems to be a new superpower, is about.