How to Get Rich

Day 330 of A Year of War and Peace

In his book Liberalism Ludwig von Mises writes that, “More dangerous than bayonets and cannon are the weapons of the mind.” The armaments of the mind are indeed powerful. Their potency is such that entire nations are stirred by their deployment and, a la a Tolstoyan deduction, so too do they disturb individuals, the prime movers of nations. We need look no further than to our hero Pierre Bezukhov to witness the awesome authority the mind exercises over the individual.

Recall Pierre’s journey so far. When we first met him he was a confused, absent minded fool. He was gullible and credulous. Specious, short-lived intellectual fancies dragged him about like a sack of dirty laundry. All the while a silly self-seriousness propelled him into asinine adventures such as his attempted assassination of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Look at him now though.

Today he speaks with an “amused and mild irony” towards others and himself. He’s able to show great empathy even towards people like Helene who have gravely wronged him. He speaks with earthly philosophical insight like when he observes that “When two people quarrel both are always at fault.” His peace of mind and goodwill towards others is apparent to everybody. Princess Marya can’t help but note his essential goodness.

Pierre is aware of it too and he knows where it comes from. He believes that the genesis of his newfound wisdom and mental strength, like fire to metalwork, is born of the adversity and suffering he endured during captivity. He tells Marya and Natasha that he would gladly submit again to the French if he could only glimpse the lessons in suffering as taught by Platon Karataev. It’s quite the statement. Marya, as if testing his claims of happiness, asks if it is true that he lost millions during the French occupation? Pierre’s response is instructive: “But I am three times as rich as before!”


It is the mind that makes men rich.

Seneca, Consolation of Helvia

This is the three hundred and thirtieth installment in a daily, yearlong, chapter-by-chapter reading devotional and meditation on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. For more information on this project please read the introduction to the series here.

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