Hundreds of us wrote, printed, and taught, and all the while confuted and abused each other. Quite unconscious that we ourselves knew nothing, that to the simplest of all problems in life – what is right, and what is wrong – we had no answer.
This week i will be reviewing Leo tolstoy’s confessions.Leo tolstoy was regarded as the greatest russian novelist of all times.He rose to fame chiefly because of his War and peace (1867)and Anna karenina(1877).In this work,Leo is describing how meaningless life was for him and how suicidal he was during the peak of his career which made me realize that the value we attribute to money and fame needs to be reevaluated because life is not just about being a billionare or that person who has the most followers on instagram,it’s more complex than that.Even the yardstick of success in terms of money or how much net worth you have, would not give you the kind of satisfaction that you think it would.
It is possible to live only as long as life intoxicates us; as soon as we are sober again we see that it is all a delusion, and a stupid one!
Tolstoy writes by saying that as he went to university he started realizing that all that trust and authority that he ascribed to faith or his religion is meaningless for him now.He don’t undersatnd it anymore.So he decided to chase after perfection in his intellect and his physical strength.He read and read and didn’t restricted his reading to a particular genre,he also started endurance and strength training to be physically strong.He confesses that what he was chasing after was power in the eyes of other men which could be seen as his hunger for social distinction.
To stop, to go back, was impossible; nor could I shut my eyes so as not to see the suffering that alone awaited me, the death of all in me, even to annihilation.
He said that through his writings whatever he was saying was not something he believed in neither it was something that he practised.He thought that as a thinker and a poet he had to teach mankind through his works unconciously yet he himself didn’t understand.He says that as a writer he was indifferent to right or wrong yet he wanted to teach and the small intellectual class to which he himself belonged lead immoral lives and have drowned themselves in the pleasure made possible by the wealth of their social class.According to him and other authors at the time the measure of civilization or how practical or useful or impactful a work is judged upon the number of people it reaches.Echoes of the idea that the number of people is propotional to the success of a work is still seen in today’s world where the success of something is reduced to the number of views it gets on Youtube or how many subscribers this or that channel have.I am not saying in any way that views or followers are not important what i am saying is let’s not reduce success or the intrinsic value of a work by just seeing the number of people who have seen it.I have seen so many self- help bestselling books so pointless and impractical that now if something is on the bestselling charts i just regard that as a statistic and nothing else.Best selling doesn’t necessarily translates into worth reading.
“Is there any meaning in my life which can overcome the inevitable death awaiting me?”
He continued on living his life even though the meaning of life still eluded him.He was on the quest for improving his material life as much as he can.He also got married and all the object of his life was aimed at providing happiness and comfort to his family.At 50,he was at the peak of his mental and physical strength but still he was dissatisfied by his life,thoughts of death started to plague him.He started recognizing that someday he or someone close to him will die and he couldn’t understand why he is living when everything will just crumble to dust.Why?
If a man lives, he believes in something. If he did not believe that there was something to live for, he would not live.
Why am I hiding it from my loved ones that inevitable truth that is death.Art and poetry even these things wasn’t so charming anymore.He wanted to know that life had meaning so that he can live it and enjoy it because when life has no meaning nothing feels worth doing.All the artificial and conventional answers as to the meaning of life didnot filled the void in his heart.
Again and again, however, the conviction came back to me that I could not have appeared on earth without any motive or meaning,
When you come face to face with life you are met with contradictions as what you are and what you are doing is not what you actually believe.
Faith springs, like man and his reason, from the mysterious first cause. That cause is God,
How am I to live in this life.He thought that if he studied other people’s life then he might be able to extract out the gist of their experience and can apply that experience in his own life.
You are what you call life.The scientific definition that we are just the conglomerate of particles and it will decompose doesn’t suffice to bring peace to him. He states science categorizes and put things into boxes.Science and rationality fails to answer the fundamental dilemma of life which is what is the meaning of our existence if any?Life is evil and absurdity but people have developed mechanisms to escape that.1.The very young donot perceive the harsh realities of life 2.People drown themselves into luxuries and pleasures 3.people commit suicide 4.The people that Tolstoy fits under are weak so they don’t commit suicide but they wan’t to.
He says that not just reason but consciousness of life power brought him to the meaning of life.He had a small wealthy circle ⭕ and outside that the working class people were looked down upon but he saw in them something that he wanted to learn that despite all their suffering they consider life worth living.They cope with life with hope.Rationality and reason denies the meaning of life which makes us question life itself so much so that we want to end it.Why does these people survive ?it’s faith that enables them to do that which his small rich intellectual circle lacked.
He says that he has strayed from the real question which is not why I should live?but how should I live?If I look at the universe I am looking at infinity and who am i?I am finite that created a lot of confusion because he cannot grasp the relationship between the finite and the infinite.
He turned to experimental science in which he found that our life had nothing of value and then he turned to philosphy even that cannot fully answer his life conundrum.
We compare ourselves to the universe.How can we do that?finite equal infinite and we subject it to logical analysis?life is evil and suffering but we still live it so realized that life is not lived for himself alone it’s for others.He calls us to abandon our reasoning when thinking about the meaning of life Because according to him truth doesn’t come from idle reasoning but from living it.He was searching for god for which he started spending his time with the poor working class people.He realized that the meaning of life comes from your heart.
Causation is not the same as time and space. If I am there’s a cause of my being and the cause of all causes God is the cause of all things.When he became conscious of a power over him.Everything started feeling more worth it.He started praying but still his prayers were not being answered which caused his alienation from religion.But religion allowed him to see that all truth is revealed in love.He started going to the church regularly he was participating in the rituals and everything.And he quite enjoyed it yet he couldn’t understand the purpose of so many rituals and that made him uneasy but he continued those rituals because he feared the loss of meaning which threatened him.
He started seeing a pattern around him that the religious followers of one religion had animosity against the religious followers of another religion.Love that was an objective of religion was turning to hatred against the ”other people” of another religion.One believed the moral supremacy of one religion over the other.In the end ,he started realizing the pitfalls of religion but he continued to believe in god because that gave his life meaning .
I would highly recommend this book especially if you are struggling in finding a meaning in your own life.I don’t know if it could solve your problem but it will resonate with you on so many different levels.