Rome wasn’t built in a day but it was built up a little bit every day. I think that’s the key lesson to be taken from Prince Andrei Bolkonsky’s rise from rural brooder to urban doer in today’s chapter.
The man is relentless. He puts off nothing for tomorrow. He even plans for tomorrow today. We see this at the beginning of the chapter when he jots down some nighttime notes for meetings he must make the following day. And when the day rises so does he, with a determination so immoderate in its pursuit of his objectives that it would leave the sensible petticoat of Marianne Dashwood a sopping wet mess.
Andrei’s most important appointment, however, is with Speranksy. It’s Speransky, after all, who Andrei must impress if he is to get his reform proposals passed into law. Here again, Andrei succeeds. The two seem to kick it off famously. Indeed, in Speransky Andrei finds a conspirator in his anti-Humean slave revolt of reason against the passions. “In general,” Tolstoy writes, “the trait of Speransky’s mentality which struck Prince Andrei most was his absolute and unshakable belief in the power and authority of reason.” Ah, yes, reason. We’ll see how well the battlements of holy reason hold up against the onslaughts of Natasha’s devilish passion shortly.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.
For now we’re only concerned with how Prince Andrei obtained his position of Chairman on the Committee on Army Regulations. He did it, as we’ve seen, by means of consistent, daily commitment to his goal.
But as it is, when you say, ‘I will begin to pay attention tomorrow,’ you should know that what you are really saying is this: ‘I will be shameless, inopportune, abject today; it will be in the power of others to cause me distress; I will get angry, I will be envious today.’ See how many evils you are permitting yourself. But if it is well for you to pay attention tomorrow, how much better would today be? If it is to your advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today, so that you may be able to do the same again tomorrow, and not put it off once more, to the day after tomorrow.
Epictetus, The Discourses