Sufficient to Cleanse the Soul Completely
Just as an overcast sky obscures the daylight, so too does cloudy thought dim the sunshine of reason. Today Natasha’s mind is thick with storm clouds. She’s in a state of agitation, enduring a constant barrage of negative thoughts about Prince Andrei, the old Prince, Marya, and Anatole. All of this primes her to make a decision by the chapter’s end that will rain down all sorts of trouble on her life.
It’s really too bad Marya Dmitrievna leaves Natasha alone today. Natasha would have benefited greatly from her “stern” guidance. Instead, Natasha is left to the influence of Helene. That’s a shame because all Helene is interested in is luring Natasha into hanging out with her brother Anatole. Anatole, as we’ve learned throughout the novel so far, isn’t really someone you’d want a nice girl to hang out with. But Helene convinces Natasha anyway. She does so through flattery and sweet talk. The talk is so sweet, in fact, that Natasha convinces herself that going to spend an evening with a known rake is really no big deal at all.
It’s clear that Natasha has made a mistake. It’s also clear that the cloudy, scrambled thinking of the early portion of today’s reading places her in a mental state that invites poor decision making. Perhaps it would have helped if she distanced herself a bit from the situation and thought clearly about what she was getting into.
For there is no retreat that is quieter or freer from trouble than a man’s own soul, especially when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquility; and tranquility is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind. Constantly then give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself; and let your principles be brief and fundamental, which, as soon as you recur to them, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul completely, and to send you back free from all discontent with the things to which you return.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations