Tag: Tolstoy

Calendar of Wisdom, Tolstoy – August 11

A person dies as he lives his spiritual life, alone.

What you do, you possess. You must believe that eternal goodness exists that is within you, and that it grows and develops as long as you live. —RALPH WALDO EMERSON

You alone plan to commit a sin, you alone plan to do evil; and you alone can escape sin and purify your thoughts. Only your inner self can damn you, and only your inner self can save you. —DHAMMAPADA, a book of BUDDHIST WISDOM

A person may ask God or other people for help, but only his good life can help him, and this he must do on his own. Every person has a depth to his inner life, an essence that cannot be explained. Sometimes you want to explain this essence to people, but you will see that it isn’t possible to explain it to another person so that he understands. Hence the need for your own channel of communication with God. Establish this channel and do not seek anything else.

Tolstoy, Leo. A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul

Quotes on Humility, Being Humble

For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. – LUKE 14:11

A person who stands on his tiptoes cannot stand long, and a person who is too proud of himself cannot set a good example. – LAO-TZU

He who is looking for wisdom is already wise; and he who thinks that he has found wisdom is a stupid man. – EASTERN WISDOM

No exterior force can make you humble. There is only one way to be humble: do not think about yourself, but about how you can serve God and others.

From – A Calendar of Wisdom, Tolstoy, Leo
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See also this quote by Thomas A. Kempis

Ivan Ilych’s life was the most simple and most ordinary and therefore the most terrible.

The self that dies is radically separate, not only from the material world but also from other selves. My consciousness is essentially private; I cannot directly experience the mind of another. I may know everything public about another conscious being, but I cannot experience being that other. Knowing from direct experience is one thing, and knowing about, from an outside perspective, is quite another. Mortality therefore entails unspeakable loneliness.

Itself a narrativized apothegm, Tolstoy’s novella contains several of his most-cited lines. Ivan Ilych has lived as if his public role exhausted his identity, but in his mortal illness he discovers the private self, inaccessible from the outside, that he has overlooked. He senses with horror that his role will go on but his “I” will die.

None of us can really grasp this fact, but for Ivan Ilych it is all the more terrible because he is losing the self just as he realizes he has it. He has thought of himself as his “place” (mesto), a word that means not only physical location but also job (position) and social role (place in society). He has assiduously avoided doing anything “inappropriate” (literally, out of place). But the self is not a place, and so he has missed it until, when dying, he recognizes that besides what is here and now, there is something else.

What Ivan Ilych takes to be the glory of his life, his amazing ability to “fit in” with others, depends on a “virtuoso” erasure of self. But as he will learn, nothing can be worse than success in such a venture. That is the meaning of the frequently cited apothegm that begins Chapter 2: Ivan Ilych’s life was the most simple and most ordinary and therefore the most terrible. (GSW, 255)

Morson, Gary. The Long and Short of It: From Aphorism to Novel

Tolstoy on History and Causation

When an apple ripens and falls—what makes it fall? Is it that it is attracted to the ground, is it that the stem withers, is it that the sun has dried it up, that it has grown heavier, that the wind shakes it, that the boy standing underneath wants to eat it?

No one thing is the cause. All this is only the coincidence of conditions under which every organic, elemental event of life is accomplished. And the botanist who finds that the apple falls because the cellular tissue degenerates, and so on, will be as right and as wrong as the child who stands underneath and says that the apple fell because he wanted to eat it and prayed for it. As he who says that Napoleon went to Moscow because he wanted to, and perished because Alexander wanted him to perish, will be both right and wrong, so he will be right and wrong who says that an undermined hill weighing a million pounds collapsed because the last worker struck it a last time with his pick. In historical events the so-called great men are labels that give the event a name, which, just as with labels, has the least connection of all with the event itself.

Their every action, which to them seems willed by themselves, in the historical sense is not willed, but happens in connection with the whole course of history and has been destined from before all ages.

Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace (Vintage Classics) , translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky