Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Law of Love and the Law of Violence

In July I began reading Jean Giono's The Solitude of Compassion and noticed Henry Miller had written the introduction. Within it he included an excerpt from Tolstoy written close to 100 years ago. I was stunned by what he said, and realized just how significant his voice is for us now. The words below were written at the end of his days, where it seems he had many years to come to understand how information, knowledge, and wisdom evolve.

"This then is everything that I would like to say: I would say to you that we are living in an age and under conditions that cannot last, and that, come what may, we are obliged to choose a new path. And in order to follow it, it is not necessary for us to invent a new religion nor to discover new scientific theories in order to explain the meaning of life or art as a guide. Above all it is useless to turn back again to some special activity; it is necessary to adopt one course alone to free ourselves from the superstitions of false Christianity and of state rule.

Let each one realize that he has no right, nor even the possibility, to organize the life of others; that he should lead his own life according to the supreme religious law revealed to him, and as soon as he had done this, the present order will disappear; the order that now reigns among the so-called Christian nations, the order that has caused the world to suffer, that conforms so little to the voice of conscience and that renders humanity more miserable every day. Whatever you are: ruler, judge, landlord, worker, or tramp, reflect and have pity on your soul. No matter how clouded your brain has become through power, authority and riches, no matter how maltreated and harassed you are by poverty and humiliation, remember that you possess and manifest, as we all do, a divine spirit which now asks clearly: Why do you martyrize yourself and cause suffering to everyone with whom you come in contact?

Understand, rather, who you really are, how truly insignificant and vulnerable is the being you call you, and which you recognize in your own shape, and to what extent, on the contrary, the real you is immeasurably your spiritual self—and having understood this, begin to live each moment to accomplish your true mission in life revealed to you by a universal wisdom, the teachings of Christ, and your own conscience. Put the best of yourself into increasing the emancipation of your spirit from the illusions of the flesh and into love of your neighbor, which is one and the same thing. As soon as you begin to live this way you will experience the joyous feeling of liberty and well-being. You will be surprised to find that the same exterior objectives which preoccupied you and which were far from realization, will no longer stand in the way of your greatest possible happiness. And if you are unhappy—I know you are unhappy—ponder upon what I have stated here. It is not merely imagined by me but is the result of the reflections and beliefs of the most enlightened human hearts and spirits; therefore, realize that this is the one and only way to free yourself from your unhappiness and to discover the greatest possible good that life can offer. This then is what I would like to say to my bothers, before I die."

—Leo Tolstoy, The Law of Love and the Law of Violence circa 1909

1 comment:

  1. Why is it–with you, and only with you–that I come upon these things (quote) when I need to come upon these things?