Stuck in the Net

Day 136 of A Year of War and Peace

We’re all a bunch of Rostovs. It’s true. We’re very likely, just as the Countess in today’s chapter, to begin the search for solutions to our problems in places, persons, and things over which we exert little to no control. Like the Rostovs, the longer we spend looking in the wrong places the worse our problems become.

It’s almost as worse as it can get for the Rostovs. It’s so bad, in fact, that they’re thinking of selling their ancestral home and estate near Moscow to pay their debts. It doesn’t occur to them to cut it out with the extravagant spending though.

Nope. They keep it up with their old habits of life: They entertain guests, they maintain their lavish hunting apparatus, and they refuse to give up hosting expensive parties.

To address these financial problems the Countess settles on a single solution: Nikolai must marry rich. She’s even got the perfect match for him: Julie Karagina. What could go wrong?

Lots could go wrong.

First, Nikolai does not want to marry Julie. At this point he still has feelings for Sonya and he refuses to sacrifice his heart for the sake of money.

Second, perhaps Julie doesn’t want to marry Nikolai either. More on this later. For now it’s important to note how the Countess seeks a solution to her problem outside her own sphere of influence.

Tolstoy describes the Rostov’s situation as being caught in a net where each thrashing attempt for freedom only serves to enmesh and entangle them further. They might want to stop thrashing about and instead calmly inquire of themselves what they have in their power to change.


Thus in life, too, this is the chief business: distinguish things and weigh them one against another, and say, ‘Externals are not in my power, choice is. Where shall I seek good and evil? Within; in what is my own. But in regard to what belongs to others, never use the words good, or evil, or benefit, or injury, or any word of that kind.

Epictetus, The Discourses

This is the one hundred and thirty-sixth 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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For my friends and family, love. For my enemies, durian fruit.

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