The Rage Returns
Rage has historically been a problem for young Nikolai Rostov. We know that. Though he has made some progress towards attaining mental tranquility and balance in his life today he loses it completely. His progress is viciously erased as he interviews Mitenka about the family’s finances.
We’re not offered any specifics about what the books look like but we can tell from Nikolai’s reaction that they’re probably not too good. In fact, they’re probably pretty bad. Nikolai explodes in anger. He screams with bloodshot eyes and a reddened face. He thrashes Mitenka, accusing him of theft and he then he throws the guy down the stairs.
Later, as his father speaks to him about Mitenka, Nikolai says something to himself that, if anyone is listening, I would like engraved on my tombstone:
I knew that I should never understand anything in this crazy world.
In the end, after his anger has subsided, Nikolai decides that addressing the family finances is too difficult a task and that he’ll take up hunting instead.
This chapter brings us another opportunity to meditate on how best to negotiate a world so full of Mitenkas. There is simply no escaping them. They’re at work. They’re at school. They’re out on the street. They’re all over the internet. Nikolai’s reaction is unhelpful even if it is understandable. Just look at how distraught and stressed he is. There must be another way.
It is not men’s acts that disturb us, for those acts have their foundation in men’s ruling principles, but it is our own opinions that disturb us. Take away those opinions then, and resolve to dismiss your judgment about an act as if it were something grievous, and your anger is gone. How then shall I take away these opinions? By reflecting that no wrongful act of another brings shame on you: for unless that which is shameful is alone bad, you must of necessity do many things wrong, and become a robber of everything else.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations