I ❤ Pierre Bezukhov
Peak Pierre. That’s what we’ve reached in today’s reading. In this chapter, after all, we encounter Pierre at his most striving, his most confused, his most manic and frantic. Pretty much everything we’ve come to love about him is found in these few short pages.
The entire chapter is a series of diary entries. In these entries we see a man struggling, dearly, towards spiritual self-improvement. We also see him on the verge of total emotional breakdown. He’s at once desirous of change and committed to his cause and then, mere days later, lost in a paralysis of doubt and an inability to improve.
What I find most interesting in this chapter is that he correctly identifies his problems. He is aware of what changes he needs to make to become a better person. He must conquer his sloth, his relationship with his wife, his anger, his vanity. And, yet, despite an accurate self-diagnosis he remains unable to cycle through his prescriptions. “I dreamed I felt that I was doing wrong,” he writes about one of his terrible dreams, “but could not tear myself away from them.” This is a problem probably everyone on earth is familiar with. Not only do we know what needs fixing, we also know how to fix it. Most of us, for whatever reasons, however, can’t bring ourselves to do the work of self-improvement. Just talk to anyone trying to lose weight when they’re confronted with pizza.
There are so many stoicisms I could leave you with today but since Pierre feels that sloth is his greatest enemy, I think the best would be one of my favorites from Marcus. Maybe it will help him get out of bed and get to work. On days when you just can’t even, this should be your guiding thought.
In the morning, when you rise unwillingly, let this thought be present: I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie under the blankets and keep myself warm?
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations