Sunday, December 5, 2010


I meant to post about Tolstoy a couple of weeks ago and the time got away from me. November 20th was the 100th anniversary of the death of Leo Tolstoy. I may well be the only person I know who has read War and Peace three times. There is nothing that compares to climbing into an epic Russian novel. It’s sort of an out-of-body experience. And Tolstoy was the master. If you saw the recent film The Last Station then you know some of the drama that surrounded Tolstoy’s death. His wife was very nearly prevented from being with him on his deathbed because of his overzealous, overprotective followers. No one wrote on a more vast canvas than Tolstoy. He tried to make sense of the larger truths and yet he was able to describe the small moment immaculately.

It was Tolstoy who originated the concept of satyagraha, or truth-force, as Ghandi would later call it. We owe the evolution of nonviolent protest and peaceful conflict resolution to Tolstoy, who ignited the spark fanned to flame by Ghandi and Dr. King.

Tolstoy taught us to embrace simplicity and to fall in love over and over again with the exquisitely beautiful everyday occurrence. He insisted that we not overlook or take for granted a delicious bowl of soup or a breathtaking spray of lilies. He wrote: “The aim of the artist is not to solve a problem irrefutably, but to make people love life in all its countless, inexhaustible manifestations.” No shortcuts. No excuses. Be present. Savor it. Suffer it. Put yourself in up to your neck and experience the miracle. Bravo, Tolstoy.

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