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Posts tagged "Leo Tolstoy"


When Everything Came Alive for Leo Tolstoy

The new episode of The Mockingcast dropped yesterday(“Pelagian Privilege”), in which Sarah shared the following entry from Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. The Arrival Fallacy strikes again:

[Leo Tolstoy] was 52 years old, and his two greatest novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), were behind him. He had found himself in a crisis—he was famous, had a family and land and money, but it all seemed empty. He was unable to write, had trouble sleeping, contemplated suicide. He read the great philosophers, but found holes in all of their arguments. He was amazed that the majority of ordinary Russians managed to keep themselves going every day, and he finally decided that it must be their faith. From there, it was a short time until Tolstoy took a walk in the woods and found God. He wrote: “At the thought of God, happy waves of life welled up inside me. Everything came alive, took on meaning. The moment I thought I knew God, I lived. But the moment I forgot him, the moment I stopped believing, I also stopped living.”

His wife Sophia was not so thrilled with his conversion. He renounced meat, sex, alcohol, fiction, tobacco, and the temptations of a family. He dressed like a peasant. He wanted to give all of his money away, but Sophia wanted to live what she considered a normal life, not to mention raise their 10 children.

Tolstoy made his first visit to [the Optina-Pustyn monastery] in 1877, a visit in which he apparently exhausted the chief starets—or community elder—with his questions. On this day [June 10th] in 1881 he set off on a second visit, and this time he decided that to be more like the common people, he would walk all the way there, dressed in his peasant coat and wearing shoes made out of bark. He was pleased with his spiritual guidance, but he wasn’t used to walking in bark shoes, so by the time he made it to Optina his feet were so covered in blisters that he had to take the train back home.

For the next chapter in Tolstoy’s eccentric spiritual journey, look no further. You can also check out our Tolstoy archive here. And for more on where he landed on monasticism be sure to track down his masterpiece of a novella, Father Sergius.

Not Made for These Times: Looking for Answers in 4 O'Clock Moments

Not Made for These Times: Looking for Answers in 4 O'Clock Moments

Every winter in the seasonal slump of dismal gray, I find myself turning to the same source of hope—the sunny sound walls of the Beach Boys. Growing up in the millennial generation, I was the only one who considered Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson’s voices to be the harmonies of my childhood. Don’t get me […]

Another Week Ends: Trigger Warnings, Performance Bias, More Tinder, More True Detective, Plus Donald Trump, J.R.R. Tolkien, Gandhi and Tolstoy

Another Week Ends: Trigger Warnings, Performance Bias, More Tinder, More True Detective, Plus Donald Trump, J.R.R. Tolkien, Gandhi and Tolstoy

1. The Atlantic’s cover story this month comes from social science favorite Jonathan Haidt. His topic is the apprehension-du-jour, the ever-growing problem of P.C., especially in the realm of college classrooms and student learning. Haidt, a professor himself at NYU, sees the trend of “trigger warnings” and “vindictive protectiveness,” different from the political correctness interest […]

The Difference Between Regret and Remorse

The Difference Between Regret and Remorse

I hate shopping for toothpaste. You probably know what I’m talking about. There’s the kind that’s good on cavities but doesn’t whiten. There’s the environmentally friendly brand that cleans well but doesn’t do much for the breath. There’s the all-in-one variety that looks promising but only comes in a small (expensive) tube. And then there’s […]

Leo Tolstoy on the Difference Between Our Way and God's Way

Leo Tolstoy on the Difference Between Our Way and God's Way

A beautiful episode of intervening grace and its, er, fruit in Leo Tolstoy’s “Where Love Is, God Is”, found in the collection How Much Land Does a Man Need? and Other Stories and discussed in Paul Zahl’s presentation on Grace in Literature at our 2009 NYC Conference. An especially big hat-tip to GW for the […]

Holiness is Being a Vagabond: Reflections on Tolstoy's "Father Sergius"

Holiness is Being a Vagabond: Reflections on Tolstoy's "Father Sergius"

To read along, go here. The possibility for man to come to God lies precisely in the fact that he is a sinner… As he was pursued by desire and fear, so he was pursued by God. -Rudolf Bultmann, “The Problem of ‘Natural Theology’” Leo Tolstoy’s short story “Father Sergius” is a parable of conversion […]

Six Best Books on Clergy (That Are Also Sympathetic to Them)

Six Best Books on Clergy (That Are Also Sympathetic to Them)

Another year-end list from PZ: 1) Father Sergius by Leo Tolstoy. This is the grand-daddy of them all, in my opinion. Father Sergius begins his ministry, within the Russian Orthodox Church, with all the right ingredients: a broken disappointed heart, an excellent education, and an appealing personality. He then becomes a saint! (But for all […]

Brooks on Franzen, Tolstoy, and Quiet Desperation

Brooks on Franzen, Tolstoy, and Quiet Desperation

Having just cracked Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, I find myself enjoying it immensely. The characterizations are just so darn funny, the diagnostic thrust so piercing and the prose so delightful. Perhaps, then, I should have avoided David Brooks’ editorial from yesterday about the book. It’s admiring but also pretty qualified, some excerpts of which are worth […]

Kerouac, Tolstoy, and The Egyptian -- Lenten Reflections

Kerouac, Tolstoy, and The Egyptian -- Lenten Reflections

In Paul Zahl’s remarkable recent piece on the 1950s film The Egyptian, he puzzles over Jack Kerouac’s wild hatred of the film, especially as (PZ notes): “The title character, take away the toga, is [Kerouac] himself.” Perhaps the puzzle contains its own key? I defer to PZ here — since by far he’s our greatest […]

Leo Tolstoy, Part Two

Leo Tolstoy, Part Two

A couple of choice quotes from Tolstoy’s non-fiction writings: “There is no other love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friend. Love is love only when it is the sacrifice of one’s self. Only when a man gives to another, not merely his time and his strength, but when […]

Grace, Love and Justice in Tolstoy's The Forged Coupon

Grace, Love and Justice in Tolstoy's The Forged Coupon

Christianity uniquely believes in the power of love and forgiveness to free captive sinners from the bonds of sin and death. Consequently the law (quid-pro-quo justice, conditional love, and punishment) does not fix the problem, but only makes matters worse. But is not the law necessary sometimes? Aren’t there times when justice must be served? […]

Slightly Expanded And Significantly More Organized Conference Book Table List

Slightly Expanded And Significantly More Organized Conference Book Table List

Here’s the full list plus a couple of relevant additions, linked to sites where they can be purchased. Although everything comes highly recommended, this is by no means meant to be a definitive list (stay tuned…). For the sake of newcomers we have divided the non-fiction into three itunes-inspired categories: Basics, Next Steps and Deep […]