A moving novel from the 19th century by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote novels, essays, and news stories but he was also a pioneer of existential philosophy. In The Idiot Ippolit Terentyev is dying of tuberculosis, which subjects him to depressive states of nihilism. Before he was young and entitled; now he’s an active rejector of the values that surround him.

Ippolit imparted the following words as he worried about the futility of any endeavour he may pursue. They may shake us if we share these fears.

'Let me add to this that in every idea emanating from genius, or even in every serious human idea—born in the human brain—there always remains something—some sediment—which cannot be expressed to others, though one wrote volumes and lectured upon it for five-and-thirty years. There is always a something, a remnant, which will never come out from your brain, but will remain there with you, and you alone, for ever and ever, and you will die, perhaps, without having imparted what may be the very essence of your idea to a single living soul.'

But we may respond in optimistic defiance. How? That’s a fair question. But here’s a fair answer.

Hold on to something; therefore, be more positive than Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, et al. Reject their nihilism. Let yourself be forever driven towards the things you value, even if you ever arrive to meet them. Embrace the idea of something real in its totality. Illusory or not, the lure of a shared goal that has the potential to be fully realised will bring you meaning.