To pass some time while standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in its entirety. Finding it to be an excellent book, I was prompted to pick up Tolstoy’s Calendar of Wisdom, which offers a few pearls of wisdom for each day of the year. Ostensibly, one should take a year to carefully read and digest this tome a day at a time, but I made the puerile mistake of drinking several pearls of wisdom in one gulp, akin to trying to take a sip from the proverbial fire hose. A body can only take so much wisdom at a time without getting dyspepsia.
It took Tolstoy 15 years to compile his book of perceptions, derived from the world’s great thinkers — Achinsky to Zoroaster. My hero, Mark Twain, did not make the cut, which leads me to suspect that Mr. Tolstoy did not wish to inject satire or humor into the shedding of light on perceptions of wisdom. (Too bad).
First published in 1912, Tolstoy’s Calendar of Wisdom was well received in Russia, then shunned by the Communist Party following the revolution of 1917, due mainly to the book’s several tributes to religious doctrine. Given a chance to comment on this phenomena, Mark Twain might have offered at no cost, “When you know a man’s religious complexion, you know what sort of religious books he reads when he wants some more light, and what sort of books he avoids, lest by accident he gets more light than he wants.”
Just for fun, I might like to take a look at today’s date in Tolstoy’s Calendar, today being the day of this writing, Friday, June 16…
“We live in an epoch of discipline, culture, and civilization, but not in an epoch of morality. In the present state, we can say that the happiness of the people grows, and yet the unhappiness of the people increases as well. How can we make people happy when they are not educated to have high morals? They do not become wise.” —Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Just here I would defer to Paul Simon, “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio Immanuel Kant? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.” But then, sadly, Tolstoy does not cite lyrics of songs in his great calendar.
I wish I could have known Tolstoy. I realized while reading Tolstoy in college, that the building blocks of my morals and ethics would not be found in books so much as in my sensitivity to the feelings and beliefs of others.
In closing on this 16th of June I would like to postulate on page one of McAvoy’s Calendar of Wisdom that if Donald Trump suffers from Mania Grandiosa, the sense of self-importance documented as a mental illness, well, he could by all rights enter an insanity plea and win his case in court… There is no charge for this legal opinion…
Audio: anchor.fm/ mcavoy-layne.