Joy! Pierre has it. The manifold blessings of its light bathe him in their splendor. Though the immediate reason for Pierre’s profound new happiness is his romantic relationship with Natasha, hardly a traditionally stoic route to contentment, the proximate cause is actually his application of the principles of that happy philosophy.
In his relationship with Natasha Pierre practices the central stoic dictum that there are things within our control and things without our control and we should concern ourselves only with those things within our control, leaving those things without our control to fortune. Tolstoy presents this by contrasting Pierre’s relationship to Natasha with his relationship to Helene:
There was nothing in Pierre’s soul now at all like what had troubled it during his courtship of Helene.
He did not repeat to himself with a sickening feeling of shame the words he had spoken, or say: “Oh, why did I not say that?” and, “Whatever made me say ‘Je vous aime’?” On the contrary, he now repeated in imagination every word that he or Natasha had spoken and pictured every detail of her face and smile, and did not wish to diminish or add anything, but only to repeat it again and again.
In addition to Pierre’s understanding and practice of the dichotomy of control, he also adopts the creed of cosmopolitanism:
But at this time he saw everybody — both those who, as he imagined, understood the real meaning of life (that is, what he was feeling) and those unfortunates who evidently did not understand it — in the bright light of the emotion that shone within himself, and at once without any effort saw in everyone he met everything that was good and worthy of being loved.
Pierre’s insanity consisted in not waiting, as he used to do, to discover personal attributes which he termed “good qualities” in people before loving them; his heart was now overflowing with love, and by loving people without cause he discovered indubitable causes for loving them.
Throughout these readings we’ve often focused on how our characters get things wrong. Their mistakes provide for dynamic, interesting reading, sure, but also for great personal suffering. It’s nice to see one of them, by means of the practical application of wisdom, finally get it right.
Good on you, Pierre.
Reflect, therefore, on this, that the effect of wisdom is a joy that is unbroken and continuous. The mind of the wise man is like the ultra-lunar firmament; eternal calm pervades that region. You have, then, a reason for wishing to be wise, if the wise man is never deprived of joy. This joy springs only from the knowledge that you possess the virtues. None but the brave, the just, the self-restrained, can rejoice.
Seneca, Epistle LIX