Abide the Outcome in the Dark
History is histrionics, a loud and bedeviled lunging about by blind men on a stage they do not understand. “Think, too,” argued the ancient Athenians in Thucydides’s great history, “of the great part that is played by the unpredictable in war: Think of it now, before you are actually committed to war. The longer a war lasts, the more things tend to depend on accidents. Neither you nor we can see into them: we have to abide their outcome in the dark.” Fortune, or maybe even her dim-witted cousin, Chance, is the great general in life and war.
Kutuzov, long a proponent of a variation of this view in theory, finds himself aghast at it in practice today. He wakes up reluctant to execute a battle he does not approve of. He says his prayers and heads off to the fight. Along the way he finds cavalrymen leading their horses to water. But they’re supposed to be way ahead waiting in ambush. Moving along he encounters an infantry regiment out of position. Everything is a mess. Nothing is going according to plan. Unpredictability and accident reign.
He berates his inferiors for not executing his orders. Later, having purged his frustration, he calms down and accepts the situation as yet another fact of life to which he must consent. The orders will be executed tomorrow.
Here Tolstoy presents two responses to the vicissitudes of life. The first is anger and frustration. Anger and frustration cause Kutuzov headaches and physical fatigue. The second response is tranquil acceptance of the way things are. More often than not, in this world where we must abide in the dark, our response is closer to anger and frustration than tranquil acceptance. Judging from Kutuzov’s experience, however, it might be better to work on acceptance.
With respect to what may happen to you from without, consider that it happens either by chance or according to Providence, and you must neither blame chance nor accuse Providence.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations