Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, a Russian novelist who was deeply moved by the trials and tribulations of his people, gave concrete shape in his stories to their unenviable existence. He inevitably incurred the wrath of the Soviet authorities, and felt forced to seek asylum in the United States.
In May 1982, he received an invitation from the American government to participate in an official ceremony to be held in his honour at the White House in Washington. Besides other dignitaries, the U.S. President himself intended to grace the occasion. This programme included a special 15 minute meeting of Solzhenitsyn with Mr. Reagan. Solzhenitsyn, however, replied to the President on May 3, 1982, regretting his inability to attend. He wrote: “The life span at my disposal does not leave me time for ceremonial encounters.”
His well-defined objective – to narrate in novel form the heartening tales of his countrymen’s lives – occupied his mind to such an extent that he felt he had not a minute to spare, and had no choice but to reject invitations to events which were likely to prove time-consuming – even if the invitation came from the U.S. President himself. When a man has a specific and worthwhile goal before him, he sets a great value upon his time, but when bereft of a goal, time hangs heavily upon his hands. It is then that ceremonial gatherings and vain pursuits become welcome occupations. He makes no real life for himself but depends upon others for occupation and distraction. In this way, he drifts along, like a ship without a rudder, to the end of his useless life. On the surface, he has led a full, busy life, but, on closer inspection, he discovers, too late, that his achievements are nil, and that he has frittered away his precious existence on empty, meaningless diversions.