Friday, July 13, 2012

Tolstoy on Wisdom in War and Peace

Pierre's lesson:

“The supreme wisdom is based not on reason alone, not on the secular sciences of physics, history, chemistry, and so on, into which rational knowledge is divided. The higher knowledge has one science—the science of the all, the science that explains the whole universe and the place man occupies in it. To contain this science, it is necessary to purify and renew one’s inner man, and thus before one can know, one must believe and perfect oneself. And to achieve that, a divine light, called conscience, has been put in our soul.” “Yes, yes,” Pierre agreed. “Look at your inner man with spiritual eyes and ask if you are pleased with yourself. What have you achieved, being guided by reason alone? What are you? You are young, you are rich, you are educated, my dear sir. What have you done with all these good things that have been given you? Are you content with yourself and your life?” “No, I hate my life,” Pierre said, wincing. “If you hate it, change it, purify yourself, and insofar as you purify yourself, you will learn wisdom. Look at your life, my dear sir. How have you been spending it? In riotous orgies and depravity, taking everything from society and giving it nothing. You received wealth. How have you used it? What have you done for your neighbor? Have you thought about the tens of thousands of your slaves, have you helped them physically and morally? No. You have used their labor in order to lead a debauched life. That is what you have done. Have you chosen some position in which you could be useful to your neighbor? No. You have been spending your life in idleness. Then, my dear sir, you married, taking upon yourself the responsibility for guiding a young woman, and what did you do? You did not help her, my dear sir, to find the path of truth, you hurled her into an abyss of deceit and misfortune. A man insulted you, and you shot him, and you say that you do not know God and hate your life. That is no wonder, my dear sir!”

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