Friday, January 29, 2010

Tolstoy's End

Lately I have been reading some of Tolstoy's nonfiction, especially his views on religion. (Basically, he thinks nearly every Christian is (at least) a serious hypocrite, and if you look at the US, say, it's hard to argue he's wrong: with our huge military expenditures, state-sponsored terrorism, glorification of money, disregard of the poor, abortion (some would argue), rate of divorce, intolerance of race, sexual orientation, gender, etc.... we're perhaps the state with the largest ever ratio of piousness to actual action.)

Anyway, the story of Tolstoy's death is amazing, and something I didn't know before.

In his later years, he basically beat himself silly over the incongruence between his idealism, his wealth, and his actual life. He seemed to desperately want to be an ascetic, but (like so many of us), despite taking some important steps, he didn't have the stones to actually live the life he felt he should -- and he knew it. (As we all know it, deep down.)

Finally, at the age of 82 Tolstoy gathered his nerve and left everything behind -- home, family, books -- and set out on some kind of quest. In the middle of the Russian winter. Only he knows exactly what he had in mind.

He made it as far as the local train station. He got very sick, and died shortly thereafter.

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