The secret to a happy life – courtesy of Tolstoy
From here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30536963
Tolstoy, who was born in 1828 and died in 1910, was a member of the Russian nobility, from a family that owned an estate and hundreds of serfs. The early life of the young count was raucous, debauched and violent.
“I killed men in wars and challenged men to duels in order to kill them,” he wrote. “I lost at cards, consumed the labour of the peasants, sentenced them to punishments, lived loosely, and deceived people…so I lived for ten years.”
But he gradually weaned himself off his decadent, racy lifestyle and rejected the received beliefs of his aristocratic background, adopting a radical, unconventional worldview that shocked his peers. So how exactly might his personal journey help us rethink our own philosophies of life?
1. Keep an open mind
One of Tolstoy’s greatest gifts was his ability and willingness to change his mind based on new experiences. The horrific bloodshed he witnessed while fighting in the Crimean War in the 1850s turned him into a lifelong pacifist. In 1857, after seeing a public execution by guillotine in Paris – he never forgot the thump of the severed head as it fell into the box below – he became a convinced opponent of the state and its laws, believing that governments were not only brutal, but essentially served the interests of the rich and powerful. “The State is a conspiracy,” he wrote to a friend. “Henceforth, I shall never serve any government anywhere.” Tolstoy was on the road to becoming an anarchist. He would be the first to encourage us to question the fundamental beliefs and dogmas we have been brought up with.
Tolstoy displayed an unusual capacity to empathise by stepping into the shoes of people whose lives were vastly different from his own. In the 1860s, he not only adopted peasant dress but began working alongside the newly emancipated labourers on his estate, ploughing the fields and repairing their homes with his own hands. For a blue-blooded count, such actions were nothing short of remarkable. Although no doubt tinged with paternalism, he enjoyed the company of peasants and consciously shunned the literary and aristocratic elite in the cities. Tolstoy believed you could never understand the reality of other people’s lives unless you had a taste of it yourself.
Read more here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30536963