Stumbling Footsteps in the Dark

Day 127 of A Year of War and Peace

magine you live alone in the country with only your father and your nephew. Your rural situation deprives you of the society of your peers. The object that most approximates a friend in your life is a copy of the Bible. Your two favorite things in the world are your nephew and your religion. Now imagine that your father is an unhinged, cantankerous old man who constantly mocks these two things and, in addition, makes sport of the fact that you’re still single. And he does so at every opportunity.

That’s about the measure of things for Princess Marya now that Prince Andrei has gone abroad.

And what’s her response to this cruel fate? Does she withdraw from family life? Does she react with rage? Does she abandon her responsibilities? No. She forgives her father and she writes a letter of condolence to a friend who has just lost her brother.

Princess Marya’s theory of theodicy as articulated in her letter to Julie Karagina, like all theories of theodicy, is not persuasive but her response to suffering is commendable.

Suffering, as the Princess writes, is our common lot. That fact can’t be changed. But our response to it can.


This rather is what you should think — that no one should be angry at the mistakes of men. For tell me, should one be angry with those who move with stumbling footsteps in the dark?

Seneca, On Anger II

This is the one hundred and twenty-seventh 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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