Mining Tolstoy

Yesterday I nearly published a new article here on Pacifism21 called "What Would Leo Tolstoy Tell Us About Donald Trump?". At the last minute, I realized that I had a chance to cross-pollinate with my literary blog, Litkicks. I published it there; it's a good piece and I hope you'll check it out.

I've delved deep into the Russian greats on Litkicks before. I once directed a primitive digital movie of Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground, and around 2006 as I was formulating the ideas that eventually became Pacifism21, I created my first political blog and named it after my favorite Chekhov play, The Cherry Orchard.

It's odd that I haven't focused on Tolstoy much before, because he was not only a devoted pacifist but a monumental one. As the author of the book (The Kingdom of God Is Within You) that blew young Mohandas Gandhi's mind and inspired him to become an activist for peace, he stands perhaps second only to Jesus of Nazareth as the most influential pacifist of all time. (Sure, we could argue where Buddha stands on this list, as well as other prophets and bodhisattvas, but that's a discussion for another time.)

Tolstoy was not only a serious pacifist but a deeply original and groundbreaking one. The final section of War and Peace, the so-called "second epilogue", may function as an index to his belief system, and I attempt to discuss this important text in the new Litkicks article linked above. The second epilogue is where Tolstoy steps away from the characters and plot of his novel to directly address a question that's obviously burning up his mind: why do we always analyze great historical events (like the Napoleonic Wars) in such trivial and anthropomorphic terms as to render them devoid of meaning? How can we do a better job of understanding the forces that actually move nations and masses through history? How can we believe we are moving smartly towards a better future when we understand our past and our present so poorly, and in such insignificant terms?

I believe that this text — the second epilogue to War and Peace — can be further mined for new insights, new discoveries, new connections. The same is true of the whole of War and Peace and Anna Karenina and the other novels, stories, early journalism, philosophical writings to.

This is going to be a new mission for this site, and I think I'll consider it a joint project between Litkicks and Pacifism21. We're going to mine the works of Leo Tolstoy and see what we find there. That'll ensure that we don't spend all of our attention chasing the news cycle during the hysteria of the 2016 presidential election. The mission is set. Fall 2016 will be Tolstoy season around here, and I can't wait to find out what we'll discover.

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