Are You SUPERFLUOUS?

Zeke Newbold

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#1
The idea of `the superfluous man` can be found in a lot of Russian literature - and many of the central character of Russian stories from the Nineteenth Century are described as being `superfluous men` (perhaps the best known being Eugene Onegin, the hero of Pushkin's verse, which was also turned into an opera by Tchiakovsky).

I have known about this label for some time, and have even used it myself. However I was not really all that clear about what it actually entailed until I recently read `The Diary of a Superflous Man` by Ivan Turgenev (1850). This is the very novella that introduced the term to the world and was responsible for making the idea fashionable among Russian novelists at that time. It explains what `superfluous man `means quite clearly. On page 10 of the Alma Classics version (published 2019) we come across this:

As for me -that's all you can say about me: I'm superfluous - that's the top and bottom of it. Surplus to requirments - no more, no less. Nature did not count on my putting in an appearance, and as a result has always treated me as an unexpected and uninvited guest.

It continues like that in the same vein for some time (gowoutandbuyitwhydontcha!) Now be honest with yourself. Does that resonate with you at all? If you're anything like me it does.

When I first read it I was instantly reminded of a remark a friend - who was into reincarnation and such like (but not Russian literature) -once made about me many years ago. He said:
`It's as though you're somehow not meant to be here`.

So as superfluous people - I suppose in this day and age women can be superfluous too - we are never likely to lead the charge of any brigade. Never likely to be the male/female lead of a romantic epic. Never likely to be the much loved family guy.... (Or when we try these things we get a slap in the face. Thus Turgenev's anti-hero from the above mentioned story challenges his rival in love to a duel. His rival agrees and our superfluous man only succeeds in slightly wounding his rival - who then calls the duel off as a show of magnanimity. The result: his rival comes out of it looking brave and kind and our superfluous man is shuinned by polite society).

But there are some upsides:

*We are inoccent bystanders who get to observe, and even partake in things, without ever really being held accountable for them.

* We survive things that would fell other people (It's as though, because we are already superfluous `nature` doesn't feel a need to be rid of us).

* We get to be like characters in Nineteenth Century Russian novels and can be `brooding` and `tortured` and `mysterious` in a way that non-superfluous people would pay good money for.

Just thinking aloud.
 
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Shady

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#2
Like you are in a film, but people see you as someone that has just wandered onto the set, but they ignore you as they know who you are and that all is fine??
 

EnolaGaia

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#4
... I have known about this label for some time, and have even used it myself. However I was not really all that clear about what it actually entailed until I recently read `The Diary of a Superflous Man` by Ivan Turgenev (1850).

... (gowoutandbuyitwhydontcha!) ...
No need - book vendors are "superfluous men" in this case. You can read the story in its entirety at Project Gutenberg:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/9615
 

INT21

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#5
Russian literature is crammed with this kind of thing. In fact a lot of it is really quite miserable.

I have just finished reading Fyodor Dostoevsky's 'Poor People'.

A really odd story in a way. But all the more understandable when one considers his own history.

They do say you have to be Russian to really understand the literature.

But 'superfluous'.

There can be a case made for a lot of people being 'superfluous to requirement'. When their consumption of the worlds materials exceeds their contribution to the worlds well being.

Am I superflous ? Technically yes. I am retired. so the world can get by without me as I don't produce anything and I live on a State Pension.
But most of my pension is re-circulated via what I spend it on. So I am part of the money go round.

In a properly run socity I would probably have been dumped somewhere on an ice floe by now.

INT21.
 

Shady

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#6
You earned that pension did you not? Worked a hell of a lot of years for it? A lot of people do not contribute, yet they still get what you had to work probably 40 to 50 years to get, trust me you are still useful
 

INT21

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#7
Thank you, I was taking the question quite literally.

I do contribute to the belief that there are people who appear to do nothing but actually improve the overall wealth of the nation (or the world), and by their acts are actually beneficial.

However, as many will have worked out by now, I am quite hard-line in my convictions. And I see no need to try and sugar coat my view of my present social position. Not quite parasitic, but damn close.
 

Krepostnoi

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#10
Thank you, I was taking the question quite literally.

I do contribute to the belief that there are people who appear to do nothing but actually improve the overall wealth of the nation (or the world), and by their acts are actually beneficial.

However, as many will have worked out by now, I am quite hard-line in my convictions. And I see no need to try and sugar coat my view of my present social position. Not quite parasitic, but damn close.
There's an interesting - to me, at any rate - irony in this: the superfluous men who as Zeke rightly notes populate a lot of nineteenth century Russian literature were entirely parasitic. They were all scions of the aristocracy, and were able to spend their days in their dressing gowns bemoaning their uselessness (at least, those of them who were prone to introspection) only and entirely because their families owned dozens if not hundreds of slaves (although we tend to call them serfs, in the Russian context) that did all the actual hard work entailed in maintaining a rural estate. I doubt there are many of us that truly understand just how miserable the existence of a nineteenth century farm labourer would have been, and that without the added literal and metaphorical shackles of Russian serfdom.
 

Ulalume

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#11
There's an interesting - to me, at any rate - irony in this: the superfluous men who as Zeke rightly notes populate a lot of nineteenth century Russian literature were entirely parasitic. They were all scions of the aristocracy, and were able to spend their days in their dressing gowns bemoaning their uselessness (at least, those of them who were prone to introspection) only and entirely because their families owned dozens if not hundreds of slaves (although we tend to call them serfs, in the Russian context) that did all the actual hard work entailed in maintaining a rural estate. I doubt there are many of us that truly understand just how miserable the existence of a nineteenth century farm labourer would have been, and that without the added literal and metaphorical shackles of Russian serfdom.
Thanks for the explanation, Krepostnoi - I had long noticed that Russians (I'm generalizing here, of course) tended toward gloom, to the point of cherishing it, even, but never had an idea why.

@Zeke Newbold - the sort of existential condition you describe seems (to me) to stem from a disconnect between self and others. If a person is disconnected from society, how could they see themselves being in any way an influence? I don't believe this is true, mind you, only that this is the source of the feeling. It sounds like deep depression talking.

I've never felt this way personally, not because I think I'm especially important, but because I believe that the existence of every being impacts all others in some way.
 

Krepostnoi

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#12
a disconnect between self and others. If a person is disconnected from society, how could they see themselves being in any way an influence? I don't believe this is true, mind you, only that this is the source of the feeling. It sounds like deep depression talking.
That's an interesting observation. In some ways, the aristos had no more autonomy than the serfs (although they had a damn sight more material ease and comfort), in that they were all subject to the arbitrary whim of the Tsar, who - arguably right up until 1917 - enjoyed absolute power over all his (there weren't many female rulers of Tsarist Russia) subjects. The closer the aristos got to the court, the more likely they were to come to his attention - always something of a mixed blessing - but of course you couldn't be seen to be keeping your distance, either... Post 1917, moreover, this arbitrary, unpredictable application of despotic power only intensified.

So, at the risk of sweeping generalisation, many Russians over generations have experienced this profound sense of powerlessness. Add to that the inter-generational trauma of losing loved ones in conflicts and at the hands of the state, or you and/or your loved ones being coerced into enacting these executions/disappearances, and it is a small miracle that anyone in Russia still manages to function at all. I do believe, though, that it is a society plagued by major psychological and emotional problems, for the reasons outlined above.
 
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Ladyloafer

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#17
aren't we all just superfluous in the greater scheme of things? what are we here for anyway? wrecking the world, wrecking each other. at the primal level of mere continuation of the species we need men and women to keep the genetic pool flowing fluous, and enough function to keep the spawn alive till they can reproduce, but everything else is just dust on the wind, dude.

and thats all there is. pfft.
 

Lizard King

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#18
The idea of `the superfluous man` can be found in a lot of Russian literature - and many of the central character of Russian stories from the Nineteenth Century are described as being `superfluous men` (perhaps the best known being Eugene Onegin, the hero of Pushkin's verse, which was also turned into an opera by Tchiakovsky).

I have known about this label for some time, and have even used it myself. However I was not really all that clear about what it actually entailed until I recently read `The Diary of a Superflous Man` by Ivan Turgenev (1850). This is the very novella that introduced the term to the world and was responsible for making the idea fashionable among Russian novelists at that time. It explains what `superfluous man `means quite clearly. On page 10 of the Alma Classics version (published 2019) we come across this:

As for me -that's all you can say about me: I'm superfluous - that's the top and bottom of it. Surplus to requirments - no more, no less. Nature did not count on my putting in an appearance, and as a result has always treated me as an unexpected and uninvited guest.

It continues like that in the same vein for some time (gowoutandbuyitwhydontcha!) Now be honest with yourself. Does that resonate with you at all? If you're anything like me it does.

When I first read it I was instantly reminded of a remark a friend - who was into reincarnation and such like (but not Russian literature) -once made about me many years ago. He said:
`It's as though you're somehow not meant to be here`.

So as superfluous people - I suppose in this day and age women can be superfluous too - we are never likely to lead the charge of any brigade. Never likely to be the male/female lead of a romantic epic. Never likely to be the much loved family guy.... (Or when we try these things we get a slap in the face. Thus Turgenev's anti-hero from the above mentioned story challenges his rival in love to a duel. His rival agrees and our superfluous man only succeeds in slightly wounding his rival - who then calls the duel off as a show of magnanimity. The result: his rival comes out of it looking brave and kind and our superfluous man is shuinned by polite society).

But there are some upsides:

*We are inoccent bystanders who get to observe, and even partake in things, without ever really being held accountable for them.

* We survive things that would fell other people (It's as though, because we are already superfluous `nature` doesn't feel a need to be rid of us).

* We get to be like characters in Nineteenth Century Russian novels and can be `brooding` and `tortured` and `mysterious` in a way that non-superfluous people would pay good money for.

Just thinking aloud.
They say we are all the main protagonist in our own life stories,but we can't all charismatic, heroic, handsome or even interesting. But we all have something to offer, every last one of us, even if we do one thing in our life that has helped someone else. I don't even mean anything major, just even saying hello to someone when they are down. The knock on effect of one small and seemingly insignificant act can go a long way.We may never know the weight of what even one of our actions can do for some one else.We are all meant to be here, we all have purpose.
 

Shady

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#19
Yes that is true Lizard King, I have a habit that if i see a lady and regardless of her age, i will go over to her and say how beautiful she looks, or if a particular colour she is wearing suits her, she laughs and smiles and thanks me, and i think it is nice to know that i may have made a small impact on her life, maybe, and it makes me feel good as well.
 

INT21

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#20
I read a short story a while back that went something like this.

An American who had been a bad guy died and went to Hell, The Devil himself was there to greet him.

'Ah', said the Devil, 'you made it at last.We knew you would. I have something lined up for you, something special. but first I'll give you the tour. Don't mind a bit of heat., do you ? ok, lets go'.

So they walk on down a passage that is getting rather warm and come to a cavern in which is a large cauldron, simmering gently. In the cauldron are lots of little figures bearing bowler hats. The figures try to climb out of the pot but there are demons at the side who push them back in with their spears.

'What's that' ? says the American' 'Oh, that's the English hell. They are not a very imaginative lot, in fact it's hardly worth the fuel cost to torment them'.

They move on and the temperature goes up. In the next cavern is a pot that is close to a roiling boil. Little figures with berets are trying to get out and the demons are pushing them back in.

'This', says the Devil,'is the French hell. Nothing but trouble the French. So we keep them on the move'.

As they approach the next cavern the heat is terrific. And the cauldron is sitting on a white hot fire and is boiling furiously. Figures in flat caps are trying to get out, and some almost make it, but they slip back into the water.

'This is odd' says the American.' they fall back in but there are no demons. Why is this ?.

'Oh', says the Devil, ' we don't need them. This is the Russian hell. every time one almost gets out, his comrades pull him back in'.

INT21.
 

INT21

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#21
aren't we all just superfluous in the greater scheme of things? what are we here for anyway? wrecking the world, wrecking each other. at the primal level of mere continuation of the species we need men and women to keep the genetic pool flowing fluous, and enough function to keep the spawn alive till they can reproduce, but everything else is just dust on the wind, dude.

and thats all there is. pfft.
Have a nice day.

INT21 :)
 

Lizard King

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#22
We can all have an impact positive or negative.We don't live our life without even leaving the smallest trace. I don't walk around like some saintly monk, but I do try be aware of how I behave in my interactions with people. I had a friend who visited me one afternoon when I received a cold call from some company, it sounded like a young lad. I thanked him politely but said I wasn't interested. My friend told me he just tells them where to go and puts the phone down and gets on with his day. I said to him, now what if I was horrible to that guy?maybe he is a student trying to work his way through college, maybe he is the only bread winner in the family,maybe he really hates his job is feeling quite low, dreads going in each day and my abusive response was the straw that broke the camel's back?He goes home falls out with his girlfriend/wife whatever, maybe he even jacks the job in.He can't get benefits because he left his job.My friend laughed and said I was taking it too far,maybe I was but he got the point.That smile, opening the door for someone, chatting to the old women at the bus stop can all make a difference.
 

INT21

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#23
Zeke Newbold,

..So as superfluous people - I suppose in this day and age women can be superfluous too - we are never likely to lead the charge of any brigade. Never likely to be the male/female lead of a romantic epic. ..

I always assumed you were male. Apologies for any misunderstandings,

INT21.
 

Yithian

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#25
Melniboné is in ruins, a shadow of it's former glory and I am Elric, wandering a less-civilised earth.

Without the murderous tendencies and physical infirmities, you understand.

Perfectly happy with that.
 
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Zeke Newbold

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#27
Zeke Newbold,

..So as superfluous people - I suppose in this day and age women can be superfluous too - we are never likely to lead the charge of any brigade. Never likely to be the male/female lead of a romantic epic. ..

I always assumed you were male. Apologies for any misunderstandings,

INT21.
!? I am male, and there is nothing in that quotation to suggest otherwise.
 

INT21

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#28
I was looking at..

..I suppose in this day and age women can be superfluous too - we are never likely to lead the charge of any brigade. ..

and assumed by 'we' you were incliding yourself.

It is hard to see that it is quote from someone else.

My mistake.
 

Zeke Newbold

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#29
I was looking at..

..I suppose in this day and age women can be superfluous too - we are never likely to lead the charge of any brigade. ..

and assumed by 'we' you were incliding yourself.

It is hard to see that it is quote from someone else.

My mistake.
No problem. The `we` refers to `superfluous people`. The bit between the two dashes in which women are mentionedis an aside thrown in to demonstrate that I was being inclusive. (Previous to that I had been refering to `Superfluous men` only).

Don't know why it bothers me to be taken for a woman - but somehow it does, a little bit!
 
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